Amesbury suspends fees for city cannabis retailers | News
AMESBURY — The city is giving its cannabis businesses a break, and at least one has paid the kindness forward.
The city has five cannabis retail or cultivation facilities under development or in operation. CNA Stores and Alternative Therapies Group Inc. both have retail stores, and CNA Stores and Jamaco LLC also have plans for grow facilities.
Alternative Therapies Group Inc. opened its Route 110 outlet in January 2020, just weeks before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and CNA Stores opened its Route 110 outlet in January 2021.
Cannabis-related businesses in Massachusetts typically sign a host community agreement with municipalities. Agreements with the host community often call for the company to pay 2-3% of its annual gross turnover to the municipality as well as a community impact fee of 2-3% to pay for potential negative effects on the services provided by the new companies.
Agreements with host communities – and community impact fees, in particular – have not been well received. Lee and Northampton are two Massachusetts municipalities that waived their community impact fees, and the owner of retail cannabis store Haverhill Stem sued that city for failing to provide documentation of the costs incurred.
Mayor Kassandra Gove made the decision to suspend the city’s Community Impact Fee until further notice late last month.
“These funds were never raised, it would have been the first time,” Gove said in an email. “So it’s not revenue that we’re losing, it’s revenue that’s just not being added right now. Our cannabis businesses were just started before the pandemic and those funds can now be used to support their operations and their staff.
Of course, many other businesses were also closed for much of the early stages of the pandemic. Gove said cannabis-related businesses are also barred from participating in many grant schemes.
“They can’t accept federal funds, they didn’t open in time to receive our funding (community development block grant), etc.,” Gove said. “So while many of our other companies could take advantage of federal grant programs and our own CDBG grant program, these companies could not.”
Gove added that the city also collects a 3% excise tax from its cannabis businesses, which amounted to $620,210 in fiscal year 2021 and $237,531 so far in fiscal year 2022.
Rob DiFazio, CEO of CNA Stores, said waiving the community impact fee was a great move by the city.
“Working with cities and towns, like we did with Mayor Gove, and having an open line of communication is key,” DiFazio said. “It’s new for everyone, even for me. So it’s important to follow this process.
DiFazio said he and his company would much rather find their own ways to give back to the community and donated $161,202 to the Haverhill-based Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, which works to end veteran homelessness in New England.
“We’re trying to find creative ways to help cities use these funds that benefit everyone,” DiFazio said. “If we can have a positive impact on our city, then that’s something I would love to do.”
Transparency is very important when it comes to dealing with the government, according to DiFazio.
“I consider it a fee that we’ve agreed to pay if we cause an impact,” DiFazio said. ” It is essential. Some people in some places see it as the money we have to pay. Either way, this will go into the general fund and be used whenever needed.
DiFazio continued to say he was suspicious of some municipalities who claimed they had to hire more police to deal with marijuana issues.
“When you research the number of people arrested in this city, you might see something like four people arrested for marijuana-related offenses and two of those offenses were the same person,” DiFazio said. “I don’t think you have to hire six new cops to deal with four infractions.”
Writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.