Mayor denies cannabis shop at downtown Florence location

  • Northampton Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra has declined to sign a host community agreement with a company that wants to open a cannabis retail store at the corner of Main and North Maple streets. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/20/2022 10:35:19 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Northampton Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra will not sign a host community agreement with a proposed Florence marijuana shop, saying that the location is not appropriate for a busy intersection in the middle of the village.

In a Thursday announcement, in which Sciarra also said she opposes a City Council effort to put a cap on the number of dispensaries in the city, Sciarra said she notified Euphorium, LLC, that she will not sign the agreement for the company to locate at 143 Main St. — the corner of Main and N. Maple streets where the Pizza Factory is located — but will assist the owners in identifying alternate sites.

“We have a thriving cannabis industry in Northampton because we have been able to locate establishments in appropriate locations with minimal impact,” Sciarra said in a statement. “A cannabis business on the corner of the main intersection in the heart of Florence center clearly doesn’t pass that test.”

Massachusetts law mandates that any cannabis business enter into a host community agreement before submitting applications to the state’s Cannabis Control Commission for license approval. The city charter grants such administrative authority to the mayor.

Ezra Parzybok, a Florence resident and cannabis consultant to Marco and Richard Aranzullo, the proposed owners of the retail entity, said Euphorium would be issuing a statement at some point, after consultation with their attorney.

Sciarra’s decision came after two public forums organized by Euphorium that led to an “overwhelming amount of feedback” and her feeling that a cannabis business at the proposed location is “not best for Florence’s future economic viability.”

“I have heard from hundreds of people about what they don’t want at the main intersection in Florence, and also what kinds of businesses they think would be great to have in Florence,” Sciarra said. “I encourage all who have been so vocal and engaged on this issue to use that remarkable energy to encourage or create the economic development they wish to see and then to be sure to support it.”

In her letter to Euphorium, Sciarra cited state guidelines issued by the Cannabis Control Commission that encourage “municipalities to carefully consider the impact of the particular marijuana establishment proposed for a community” when exploring host community agreements. She also cited a state Supreme Court ruling in 2021 that allows communities to turn down host community agreements, so long as the decision is not capricious or arbitrary.

The idea of putting a cap on the number of dispensaries in the city, including in Florence and Leeds, has been contemplated by councilors. A dozen dispensaries are in operation in Northampton this fall.

“While I respect the process underway with the City Council to consider a cap, Northampton has been and should continue to be a city supportive of a well-regulated and equitable cannabis industry that expands our tax base,” she said. “Artificially constraining the cannabis market is unnecessary at a time when neighboring states — Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont — are entering the retail cannabis market, and applications for new Northampton licenses have already waned in the past two years.”

Sciarra also suggested that putting in place a cap could inflate a secondary market for licenses that helps large corporations keep out smaller businesses, as well as those participating in the Social Equity and Certified Economic Empowerment Priority programs.

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