July 07, 2018

Cities and towns in Massachusetts can ban marijuana stores — and dozens have, following a process detailed in the new marijuana law.

Or municipalities can allow pot retailers, with regulation and taxation. Dozens have done that, too.

But as recreational pot sales have become legal (officially as of July 1), lobbyists for the fledgling marijuana industry fear that some cities and towns might be mulling a third option: De facto bans, in the guise of “temporary” moratoriums that circumvent the intentionally laborious process for enacting explicit prohibitions. Pot advocates rallied at the State House recently to protest Attorney General Maura Healey’s decision to grant a moratorium extension requested by the Town of Mansfield, which they fear could create a new precedent.

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Right now, those fears seem, well, paranoid. Mansfield is the only town so far to win such an extension, and it presented good reasons. The town is clearly trying in good faith to grapple with the local regulatory issues raised by legalization, including changes to its zoning, and in fact has already put some rules in place.

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Still, skepticism is definitely called for if other towns try to garner extensions. Moratoriums are supposed to be a planning tool, to give towns time to make planning decisions. It’s been almost two years since the legalization referendum passed. The fact that most towns have managed to write regulations suggests that it’s doable, and raises questions about how hard the laggards are really trying.

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