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Securing Town Meeting Approval for Adult-use Cannabis Sales

The Opportunity

Belfort Group (BG) was retained by Acreage Holdings (dba The Botanist), owners of a medical cannabis cultivating business in Sterling, MA. With only a month of lead time in a community that voted against the legalization of marijuana and allowance of adult-use recreational cultivation by a two-thirds margin within the past two years, BG’s goal was to flip the vote and secure a two-thirds margin approval at Town Meeting to allow the business to sell wholesale to adult-use retailers.

The Strategy

BG immediately began fostering connections with town officials, residents, media members, and local influencers. We placed a full-page advertisement promoting the tax revenue benefits in the local newspaper, published a guest column on behalf of the client in the local media, and secured an opportunity for the client on local cable access television – where a majority of residents get their information. BG created marketing collateral that stressed the project benefits plus the fact that no retail dispensaries would be sought in town. BG canvassed high-traffic areas in town to speak directly to residents, then identified voter rolls for likely Town Meeting voters and sent mailings to nearly 1,500 households. We also planned and executed an open house to meet voters and answer their questions, then conducted a robo-call, text message and phone banking campaign in the days before the meeting to get out the vote.

The Result

Town Meeting attendance was roughly 30 percent higher than usual greatly due to BG’s efforts, and almost all the speakers supported the article. Despite unanimous opposition and a lack of recommendation by the Planning Board, the client’s article easily exceeded the necessary two-thirds majority and the article was successfully passed, a significant accomplishment given the negative climate at the beginning of the campaign.