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Western Mass Marijuana: What surrounding towns have accepted this business opportunity?

On June 21st, Massachusetts’ first recreational marijuana business license was given to Sira Naturals, Inc. Located southeast of Worcester in a town called Milford, the state’s first commercial pot shop will reside at 13 Commercial Way.

West Springfield, too, had a business opportunity regarding the manufacturing and selling of recreational marijuana. A West Springfield Town Council meeting was held in the Justin Morgan Auditorium on June 4th regarding the establishment of two commercial marijuana facilities in West Springfield. Mayor Will Reichelt, who was initially against statewide legalization in 2016, was in strong favor of the dispensaries. He felt that now that the commercial use of marijuana is legal in Massachusetts, our community might as well turn it into a business opportunity and use it to improve tax revenue.

Using Northampton’s success as a business model, Mayor Reichelt projected that West Springfield would bring in an additional $1 million each year. This estimate was declared as Northampton’s single facility brought $250,000 with a 3% local tax, and with West Springfield’s 6% local tax and two facilities, $1 million is statistically within reach. The proposal was rejected on June 4th with an 8-1 vote against the Mayor’s wishes. “I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to have a conversation about what’s best for West Springfield,” stated Reichelt.

Residents and officials that were in favor of the recreational facilities were simply in it for the business opportunities that would be brought to the surface -- more money for the town, and thus more money for improving the town. “It’s a different issue now -- it’s no longer about legalization. It’s about moving forward with what has already been established.” states Mayor Reichelt. As the dispensaries paid their local tax and host community agreement fee, that money would have gone to what the town needs and filled in areas where funding is lacking. However, those that were against the commercial facilities claimed that it would create a negative message to the younger generation and promote substance abuse within our town.

Now that the pot shops have been declined, there is a moratorium in place preventing the manufacturing and selling of commercial marijuana in West Springfield until 2019.

Among surrounding communities, Ludlow, Hampden and Wilbraham have also declined commercial marijuana facilities within their towns. So far, communities that have voted in favor of the shops include Chicopee, Holyoke, Northampton. Springfield has set a six month moratorium on recreational pot sales, and they will revisit the idea after they are more educated and aware of potential consequences in September. Chicopee, among other towns who have accepted pot shops with open arms, has particularly decided to not allow the retailers to be within a certain distance of schools, churches, residential areas and other locations where children are thought to reside regularly. They are also instructed to stay away from drug rehabilitation facilities and doctors offices. They are only able to be set in business-like zones.

In other towns around the state, recreational marijuana retailers were thought to have their dispensaries open and operating by July 1st. However, the Cannabis Control Commission will not have all of the applicants approved and facilities inspected by this time, and the projected date of establishment is being pushed back until further notice.

As of right now, West Springfield has banned the manufacturing of commercial marijuana until 2019.