June 25, 2018

Healey ruling could be setback to recreational marijuana sales

Photo | State House News Service
Attorney General Maura Healey

A recent decision by Attorney General Maura Healey, an opponent of legal recreational marijuana, delivers a "devastating setback" for legal marijuana supporters who are still uncertain about legal sales beginning July 1, the leader of the coalition behind the voter law said.

"The Attorney General's unnecessary ruling is a devastating setback for a voter-approved legalization measure that has already seen significant delays," James Borghesani, a spokesman for the coalition behind the 2016 voter law, said in a statement Monday morning.

The Boston Globe reported Monday that Healey, by approving the town of Mansfield's request for its temporary moratorium on pot shops and marijuana businesses through June 2019, is enabling cities and towns to unilaterally prohibit cannabis companies for another year without seeking local voter approval.

"Towns have zoned for tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceuticals for years. It is a fiction that they need more time to figure out how to zone for cannabis," Borghesani said. "The only people who will benefit from Maura Healey's ruling are the criminals who have controlled cannabis sales for decades."

Healey's office declined to make information available Monday morning about the Mansfield case but said they would have "something" to say publicly shortly.

About 70 cities and towns in Massachusetts have banned retail marijuana shops and such shops are also not allowed in another 135 communities with temporary moratoriums in place, according to Borghesani. He said cities and towns, not the Cannabis Control Commission, are to blame for holding up licensing efforts and the launch of a retail market.

"They can't issue licenses for applications that don't have host community agreements attached to them," Borghesani said. "Many towns are simply not moving forward on these."

Borghesani cast doubt on the prospects of retail marijuana sales beginning on July 1, predicting that "maybe one or two" recreational licenses will be issued in July and most likely will be granted to medical marijuana dispensaries.

One of Healey's Republican opponents criticized the attorney general.

"Can you say overreach?!" Jay McMahon tweeted. "Unlike @Maura_Healey, I would never circumvent process or unilaterally deem state law(s) unconstitutional. Nor would I ignore the will of voters. Why? Activism is simply not in the job description."

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