Recreational marijuana stores are opening with greater frequency now across Massachusetts. However, there are none so far in the largest city in western Massachusetts. The Springfield City Council will soon weigh approving four cannabis stores.
Pledging to not drag out what has already been a long regulatory process, Springfield City Council President Justin Hurst Tuesday night announced a schedule that, if followed, would wrap up the local approvals needed for the first four marijuana stores in the city by the end of this month.
The council voted to send to committee for review the newly reached host community agreements between the mayor and the four companies proposing the marijuana stores. Hurst said the agreements will be back on the agenda for the council’s September 16th meeting.
"I fully anticipate that at that meeting we will have host community agreements approved in the city of Springfield," said Hurst.
Additionally, Hurst announced the council will consider special permits for each of the proposed stores at a meeting on September 24th.
"We'd like to make sure their applications are all out at the same time," said Hurst.
Before a marijuana store can apply for a final license to operate from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission a host community agreement must be signed and all necessary local permits secured.
City Councilor Adam Gomez, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, said he will schedule a committee meeting soon to review the four host community agreements sent to the council by Mayor Domenic Sarno just before the Labor Day weekend.
"We're going to move forward and make sure the city is going to thrive and be successful when it comes to these agreements, make sure the city of Springfield and its residents are getting the best bang for their buck." said Gomez.
Gomez said councilors are as anxious as many residents, he believes, to get marijuana stores opened in the city.
"We want to get this right, but we don't want to prolong this effort anymore than it has been," said Gomez who added " I know the voters voted for this over 2 years ago."
The proposed host community agreements are with INSA Inc., for a store at a former hamburger bar on West Columbus Ave in the city’s South End, Holistic Industries, which wants to locate in a shopping plaza on Boston Road, 6 Bricks LLC on Albany Street in the McKnight neighborhood, and 311 Page Blvd LLC, the address of a former gymnasium in East Springfield.
Terms of each of the agreements are similar, with variations due to the proposed locations and the companies’ backgrounds, according to the mayor’s office. Each of the companies has to meet certain security requirements, local hiring goals, and fund a drug addiction education program.
The stores must pay the city 3 percent of their annual gross revenue – the maximum allowed by state law. That is in addition to the 3 percent sales tax the city will collect on each transaction.
A review committee appointed by Sarno recommended the four companies from 27 applicants to be the first to have a chance to open adult-use marijuana stores in Springfield.
The City Council last September approved a zoning ordinance that capped the number of cannabis shops that could open in the city at 15 and restricted them to 58 streets in areas already zoned for business use.