Easthampton council tables expanding retail marijuana licenses 

  • Easthampton Municipal Building GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/10/2019 4:38:41 PM
Modified: 10/10/2019 4:38:31 PM

EASTHAMPTON – The city has delayed increasing the number of retail marijuana licenses to eight, including reserving three for equity applicants, after the mayor raised questions about how the city would administer them. 

The City Council last week put its proposed marijuana equity licensing legislation on hold, unanimously sending it back to its ordinance subcommittee with no timeline for when it will return to the council. The ordinance amendment was proposed by City Councilor Owen Zaret and called for reserving three of eight licenses for equity applicants, which include racial minorities, Easthampton residents, veterans the disabled and women.

At the council’s Oct. 2 meeting, Zaret said he had a conversation with Mayor Nicole LaChapelle that morning, where she said that more in-depth legal work would be required before increasing the number of retail marijuana licenses with the provisions for equity applicants. 

Speaking at the meeting, the mayor said that while she felt the law’s language is good, it still raises a number of legal questions, which other communities are tackling as well.

“I would not want to rush such a fresh piece of law at the city’s expense down the road,” LaChapelle said.

“There’s still plenty of time to get this done,” Zaret said. “A lot of times good legislation is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Speaking to the Gazette on Wednesday, LaChapelle reiterated that she supports the legislation.

“I’m not against the ordinance,” the mayor said.

However, she said that she went to Zaret with concerns that included the city not having the staffing and legal budget to deal with its implementation. 

She also said that work on the applications of the five companies that the city of Easthampton has signed host community agreements with has cost the city hundreds of hours of work from its employees, but that only one company has been given the go-ahead to open by the Cannabis Control Commission, meaning that Easthampton has not recouped those costs.  

The mayor also said that the law, as written, would restrict one of the city’s existing six licenses to an equity applicant.

“Why would we want to give up the economic opportunity?” said the mayor, who supports the idea of having two equity licenses. 

While LaChapelle didn’t have a timeline for when she would like to see the ordinance amendment passed, she said she hopes the city would be able to implement it next fiscal year. She indicated it could happen earlier if additional money becomes available.

“It’s on my list,” she said.

Karima Rizk, an Easthampton marijuana activist who advised Zaret on the creation of the amendment, expressed frustration with the council’s decision to table the ordinance amendment. 

“It’s disappointing to hear that perspective from the mayor’s office,” Rizk said.  

Rizk said she would like to see more public input into the process as well.

“We need more leadership and courage,” Rizk said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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