Getting Your Marijuana Project Approved in Massachusetts

by Belfort Group | Public Affairs , Thought Leadership
May 11, 2017


Part 1 of a 2 Part Series

Finding the right location for a marijuana grow facility and/or dispensary in Massachusetts and convincing the town’s leadership and its constituents to agree it’s a good idea—is like running a political campaign. You need to get your project elected. Since the Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana was passed in Massachusetts in 2016, developers, landscape architects, horticulturalists, pot enthusiasts, businesspeople, national companies in the marijuana business, investment trusts—are all seeking sites where they can manufacture, cultivate and process medical marijuana products (MIP) or other high-high value agricultural products. Sites must meet the zoning requirements for a Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Dispensary (RMD) and other agricultural uses. Towns have reacted to the marijuana business coming to town in the following ways. Some have:

  • Recognized this upstart use as an economic engine and have taken a pro-active approach to ensure their town is adequately protected.
  • Looked at the marijuana business as a revenue driver that can support capital needs such as road and bridge improvements, new buildings and much-needed programs for kids and seniors.
  • Taken a more cautious approach, adopting a wait and see approach before engaging in discussions about the merits of these projects.
  • Decided the risks outweigh the benefits because the quality of life and the character of the city or town could be compromised and that is worth more than the projected economic benefits.

For the past three decades, BG has been working with developers to assist them in securing permits for development sites in the Commonwealth, typically in communities that are wary of over development or historically anti-development. Many of these same 351 cities and towns may continue to be less than enthusiastic about engaging in the public process to bring marijuana grow facilities and/or dispensaries—into their backyards.

While there may be objections on any given Main Street, the promise of an economic windfall awaits as well – this is where the art of educating stakeholders presents an unprecedented opportunity to get your project elected by navigating the public process and securing the necessary approvals required to open for business.

Phase I: Pre-Campaign Preparation

BG’s Community Launch process and its success are predicated on preparation, preparation and more preparation. Even before the formal public process begins, it’s critical to set the stage by conducting an intense research phase. It’s imperative to “do your homework” to test the thesis that XYZ town is ready for marijuana cultivation and/or a dispensary. This part of the process is not optional and requires patience, perseverance and planning.

  • Conduct a community audit
    • Understand the community where you hope to locate. Read the local newspapers, listen to the local radio station, go to the local coffee shop and talk to the people at the counter. Get a feel for the town and its residents. What issues are top of mind? What’s their take on medical marijuana?
    • Gather intel on previous issues the town has approved and turned down. Research which neighbors and town officials were vocal about these issues—both positive and negative. Are any of the pros/cons related to medical marijuana and drug use? Check out the editorials in the local paper, they always provide great insight.
    • Visit the town’s Facebook Page, its website, local blogs and Facebook pages of others in the town to understand what makes it tick. Talk to anyone you can to learn more about the town’s sentiment toward the issue.
    • Make a list of potential proponents as well as opponents. These are the folks you want to meet and greet to “try on” the idea of a medical marijuana grow facility and/or dispensary coming to town.
    • Become a valued resource about the issue of medical marijuana, cannabis growing facilities, marijuana infused products and other key terms in this realm. While it’s important to show you understand the topic, being overconfident can be a turn off. It’s important to hear people out and understand that not everyone is comfortable with marijuana being legalized.
    • Consolidate the intelligence from your listening tour and leverage this as the basis for crafting your strategy to launch your community relations effort in the town.

    Stay tuned for our next blog post that’ll provide insights on how to prepare to launch your project with a coordinated ground game in the community.

    If you need help on your permitting or zoning campaign, contact us.

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