Unfortunately, the patchwork of municipal policies enacted so far has created a limited and limiting licensing scheme locally that does not exist on the state level.
Most of the approximately 100 municipalities that opted in have raised excessive barriers to entry. Many have imposed caps on licenses, with some issuing only two per town. Prohibitive local application fees can range from $2,500 to $10,000 for initial approval, and upwards of $30,000 for renewal. Some towns require municipal licensing applications that differ significantly from the state’s, doubling costs for professional preparation amid other expenses. Many towns heavily restrict zoning, which can choke businesses from commerce and lead to exploitation from landlords and corruption. Many municipalities do not have a system for priority review or approval for communities harmed by cannabis prohibition, and a lack of transparency conceals whether the processes are fair. And, while many towns have implemented the 2% local tax, few have determined which initiatives it will support.
There is a better way. We need municipalities to pass inclusive ordinances and to replace existing ones that take the wrong approach. Municipalities, and their residents, benefit from emulating the state’s low licensing fees or using a sliding scale, avoiding arbitrarily low caps on the number of businesses, allowing businesses to operate in a range of areas, and offering business assistance to create a more inclusive industry.
In many ways, municipalities hold the fate of statewide social equity efforts in their hands.