Northampton mayor won’t sign retail pot shop ordinance

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 01-30-2023 9:14 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra will not sign an ordinance approved by the City Council earlier this month that limits the number of cannabis dispensaries in the city to 12, although the ordinance may still take effect this week as the mayor has also yet to veto it.

The council passed the ordinance on Jan. 19 capping retail marijuana shops at a dozen. According to the city’s charter, the mayor has 10 days after an ordinance is presented to her to sign it. In this case, the ordinance reached her office on Jan. 23. That means that Sciarra has until Thursday to veto the bill.

The mayor, through her chief of staff Alan Wolf, declined to say on Monday whether she plans to veto the ordinance.

If Sciarra, who is against capping the number of dispensaries, vetoes the ordinance, the council would need to vote on it again and pass it with at least two-thirds majority. The council passed the ordinance on a 6-3 vote, the same majority that it would need to be voted on if sent back.

If the mayor does not sign or veto the ordinance, it will automatically take effect this week.

Although Sciarra herself prevented what would have been a 13th dispensary in October due to its proposed location in central Florence, she has voiced opposition to rules capping the number of retail cannabis businesses in the city. She has argued that allowing the cap would merely create a secondary market for dispensary licenses in the city, which would be purchased by larger corporate entities in the cannabis business.

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“Northampton’s restriction-free approach has resulted not only in more safe and legal cannabis, but also fewer empty storefronts downtown, good-paying jobs in the cannabis industry, and significant local tax revenues,” she told the council at a meeting held on Jan. 9.

Councilors supporting the bill have argued that the city needs a cap due to a negative influence the city’s large number of dispensaries is having on the city’s youth, and that consumers in the city already have reasonable access to acquiring cannabis with the number currently in the city. Nearby towns such as Amherst and Hadley already have imposed caps on the number of retailers in past years, as have many other municipalities in the state.

Following the closure of The Source dispensary on Pleasant Street in December, the city currently has 11 dispensaries, the second-highest of any municipality in the state only behind Boston.

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