November 29, 2017

Worcester eyeing 15 marijuana stores, local tax

File photo
Worcester officials have begun the conversation about local regulations when retail pot shops can open next summer.

The Worcester Economic Development Committee has endorsed city regulations to limit the number of retail marijuana shops in the city to 15 and adopt a 3-percent sales tax on the products.

The proposed set of rules mirror recommendations made by City Manager Edward Augustus in October.

The law creating the recreational use and sale of cannabis allows for the adoption of a local 3-percent sales tax in addition to a combined 17-percent state sales and excise tax. The maximum tax amount for recreational marijuana products is 20 percent, per the law.

The 15-store cap, per the regulations, is equal to 20 percent of the city's licensed liquor stores, which is currently 74.

Per the proposed rules, the city will adopt a policy of negotiating host community agreements with retail cannabis stores and will adopt further ordinances and regulations to restrict the operating conditions.

Zoning amendments are eyed to place recreational pot stores in the same areas as medical dispensaries. According to the city's medical marijuana zoning, that includes business, manufacturing and institutional medical zones with 300-foot buffers from residential zones, schools, parks, playgrounds and libraries.

The Cannabis Control Commission has yet to release regulations on the industry, but is expected to do so in the coming months. The commission can begin accepting license applications in April, but can't administer any license until June.

Worcester Committee Chairman Tony Economou said the local regulations are an attempt to get ahead of the state regulations and adhere to parts of the law already set in stone.

"We're trying to get the groundwork put aside to let people know right up front what we're looking at … and what the city would be looking for in return based on what … legislation comes down from the state," he said.

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