Quincy Marijuana Ordinance Still Pending

By SCOTT JACKSON

A zoning ordinance regulating where recreational marijuana shops could open in Quincy remains pending before the City Council.

Mayor Thomas Koch introduced the ordinance in February 2018. The council’s ordinance committee met Monday to review the ordinance but did not vote on it. Councillor Nina Liang, the committee’s chairwoman, said she wanted to give her colleagues more time to review the ordinance before casting a final vote.

“I want to make sure we have time to digest the new information that’s in front of us this evening,” she said.

Massachusetts voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana in a November 2016 referendum. Statewide, 53.6 percent of voters backed the measure, and 51 percent of voters in Quincy did so as well. Because a majority of Quincy voters approved the 2016 referendum, the mayor and City Council cannot ban marijuana establishments outright. The city would also be required to license up to seven pot shops – one for every five liquor stores in the city.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit marijuana establishments from opening within 1,500 feet of any residential zoning district. They would also be barred from opening within 500 feet of any school, playground, athletic field, beach, public park, library, skating rink, public transit center, day care facility, or youth sports facility. Those regulations would essentially limit recreational pot shops to the Fore River Shipyard, the vicinity of Ricciuti Drive or Crown Colony, unless an applicant obtained a variance to open elsewhere.

The establishments would be allowed to open between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

The proposed ordinance would require anyone looking to open a marijuana establishment to obtain a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals. A community meeting would be required prior to the application being filed. Applicants would also need to sign a host agreement with the mayor; those host agreements would include a community impact fee of up to 3 percent of gross sales payable to the city for up to five years.

Koch has filed separate legislation, pending before the council, to establish a 3 percent local sales tax. That would be on top of the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax and a 10.75 percent state excise tax.

Stephen Durkin, an assistant city solicitor, said state law gives communities the ability to put certain safeguards in place, provided they are not too burdensome.

“Local communities do have some input into what goes in in their city town. Local communities…are allowed to impose reasonable safeguards, reasonable restrictions, including specifically time, place and manner,” Durkin said.

“Those safeguards have to be such that they are not unreasonably impracticable for a businessperson to want to do business under those rules.”

State law, he added, requires marijuana establishments be 500 feet away from schools. Durkin said the state would allow a community to shrink that buffer zone but not expand it.

Durkin recommended three amendments to the pending ordinance.

The first amendment would eliminate a provision in the zoning ordinance barring anyone convicted of certain marijuana-related criminal offenses from obtaining a special permit for a marijuana establishment license. Durkin said regulations set by the state Cannabis Control Commission pre-empt that section of the zoning ordinance.

The second amendment would allow on-site marijuana consumption, provided the Cannabis Control Commission grants an establishment permission to do so. The state regulations currently do not allow for on-site consumption.

The third amendment would delete one sentence within part of the zoning ordinance spelling out notification requirements, which Durkin called superfluous. The applicant would still be required to hold a community meeting and advertise that public meeting in advance and notify property owners within 300 feet of the proposed location of upcoming meeting.

As part of the ordinance, the council would also be responsible for setting the fee paid by an applicant looking to open a marijuana establishment. Durkin said that fee should be “fairly nominal.”

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