Officials discuss putting cap on number of marijuana dispensaries in Northampton
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Local leaders in Northampton met Monday evening to discuss whether or not to put a cap on the number of marijuana dispensaries in the city.
The discussion took place after the first dispensary in the state closed last month in Northampton and a separate dispensary proposal was denied by the mayor.
Ultimately, members of the Northampton City Council Committee on Legislative Matters were split, and it will go back before the whole city council for further consideration.
“When there was the proposed dispensary in Florence, that was kind of a tipping point for the community to say, ‘Hey wait a minute, do we have more than we want?’” one member said during Monday’s meeting.
The meeting was recommended to the subcommittee by the full city council and came just months after Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra rejected a dispensary proposal for the first time for a location in downtown Florence. The Source also recently became the first dispensary in the state to close on December 16th.
Some committee members advocated for the cap for safety concerns.
“The more dispensaries there are, the more we’re normalizing use in our community, the more sort of very subliminal advertising there is,” one member said. “I pass 4 or 5 dispensaries with my kids every single day.”
Mayor Sciarra countered, saying a cap could drive out the mom and pop shops.
“It will make it more likely that only big businesses and multi-state operators, MSO’s as they’re called, will have the resources to acquire them legally,” she said.
Another factor discussed was a potential exemption for “social equity candidates,” people who are parts of communities who have been targeted by the war on drugs. There is currently one candidate operating a dispensary in the city.
Dr. Robin Goldstein, a Northampton native and professor on marijuana economics at UC Davis, added that a cap may actually put the community at greater risk.
“It would actually endanger youth and adult health by increasing the proportion of illegal cannabis in the market, and untested contaminants and its unknown potency,” Dr. Goldstein said.
Ultimately, after more than three and a half hours of deliberation, the motion for a neutral recommendation passed with a 3 to 1 vote, and will go back before the city council.
“I think the council deserves a shot at this, and the full council to weigh in,” Councilor Jim Nash said.
No official word has been released on when the full city council will take up this motion.
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