High Hopes In Worcester MA For Recreational Marijuana Industry

The Cannabis Control Commission is set to start accepting business applications on April 1

Throughout Massachusetts, cannabusiness entrepreneurs are working hard to get in on what is anticipated to be a highly profitable industry.  In Worcester, the second largest city in the state, the interest is palpable.

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission is set to start accepting business applications on April 1.  The commission will then review the applications, run background checks, and start issuing licenses in June.  Based on this timeline, it is possible that recreational cannabis sales will begin as early as July 1.

State law mandates that cities must permit a specific amount of marijuana retail stores—20 percent of the off-premises alcohol licenses the city is authorized to issue.  This means that Worcester must make way for up to 15 cannabis retail stores within the city limits.  In addition to retail spaces, businesses are looking for Worcester locations for social clubs, manufacturing, cultivating, research, and laboratory testing.

Gearing up for all of this, lawmakers in Worcester are looking for ways to control the placement of such establishments through zoning laws and a permit process.  Lawmakers are adamant that they are not looking to circumvent the law, but that they want to prevent certain issues from arising.

One concern is that the city will attract too many visitors coming to Worcester strictly to purchase and use marijuana products.  Several surrounding towns have either voted not to permit such businesses or have put a moratorium on them while they work on regulations for the market.

Another concern is that retail stores could be concentrated in just a few areas.  This would in effect create something like a cannabis district within the city, causing concerns for those in the area while leaving those in other areas without easy access.  District 3 Councilor George J. Russell noted that with the zoning regulations proposed by City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr., marijuana-related businesses would essentially be shut out of the western portions of the city.


While many of his fellow lawmakers have been focused on the potentially negative impact of the industry or the regulations governing it, District 1 Councilor Sean M. Rose has taken a more positive approach.  His focus has been on job creation that will be spurred by the industry and the new revenue stream it will open up for Worcester.  Rose emphasizes that this revenue has the potential to greatly improve the neighborhoods that house cannabis retail stores, noting that marijuana businesses have already added one million dollars to the city budget through community host agreements.

“I’m not opposed to having any of these shops in my district,” he told “I know I’m in the minority on this. It’s clear that people have concerns and legitimate fears and I respect that. But there are two things that jump out for me: the people voted for this, and this is a revenue issue.

“If we’re able to get some kind of financial mitigation to help out the districts where these businesses are located, then we could have money for things like street and sidewalk repairs, three-decker porch repairs, parks, youth engagement programs, and Indian Lake.”

Last week, the Worcester Planning Board suggested changing the zoning regulations to make those governing siting adult-use establishments less restrictive.  Before their suggested changes can be implemented, the Worcester City Council must approve them.


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