The Codcast: The marijuana blame game

July 1 has come and gone and no one legally bought marijuana in Massachusetts. Plenty of people bought illegal marijuana and legally smoked it, sort of a “don’t ask/don’t tell” situation.

But the date viewed by many as a launch for retail recreational sales is now looking like the end of the summer, almost two years after voters approved a statewide referendum legalizing adult use. James Smith, a former state representative who championed legal weed back in the 1970s and now is an attorney representing the nascent industry, says the cause of the delay lays squarely with cities and towns who are dragging their feet on zoning and host agreements if they haven’t enacted bans and moratoriums.

“Parochialism, puritanicalism,” said Smith, who, along with Jennifer Flanagan of the state Cannabis Control Commission joined The Codcast to talk about the slow rollout of the law. “The statute and our history gives an awful lot of power to our communities…It’s as if we’re trying to site a nuclear waste dump downtown.”

Flanagan, a former state representative and senator who was appointed to the commission by Gov. Charlie Baker, acknowledged communities have the final word on stores and other facilities opening in their midst but said it’s more a lack of education than overt resistance that has been causing the delays.

“There’s a lot of questions by people serving in town government,” said Flanagan, who voted against the referendum before joining the board. “Some are really trying to get it down. This is a really big industry that will have an impact for years to come.”

Smith, who has been negotiating host agreements with communities for his firm’s clients, said some cities and towns are looking to extract more than the statutorily allowed 3 percent local tax and 3 percent cost mitigation agreement and that is hampering some companies’ abilities to open facilities. He said the demands are akin to shakedowns because there’s relatively little cost for the town associated with opening these kinds of stores, no more than a convenience store or a liquor store.

“We’re running into that everywhere; they want 4 percent, they want side deals,” said Smith.

Flanagan said the commission has heard about the higher demands but says there’s nothing they can do about it. They don’t see the agreements, only notice that one is reached as required by law. But, she said, the anecdotes concern her.

“I think there are some cities and towns that need more education,” she said. “It causes me concern that people are trying to milk the system for more money.”

Both Flanagan and Smith said the impact on communities of a ruling by Attorney General Maura Healey allowing Mansfield to extend its moratorium until next June will have minimal impact. They agreed the ruling was narrowly focused on Mansfield and unlikely to have a wider application.

“Mansfield might have been a unique situation,” Smith said.

Flanagan refused to put a date on when the retail industry will get rolling. She said the July 1 target date was not set in statute but turned into an “end-all-be-all date” among advocates and the media. And while she insists cities and towns aren’t purposefully hampering the implementation, she acknowledged the commission can only do so much. She said the commission doesn’t even know the exact number of cities and towns with bans and moratoriums.

“They don’t have to answer to us,” she said.

Smith, though, said they do have to answer to the voters, who spoke loud and clear in 2016.

“They might have one or two by Labor Day, maybe a half dozen by the end of the year, then it should start flowing but it’s going a lot slower than anyone thought,” he said. “The majority of us voted for it, the majority of us should have access to it.”

JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

Coleman Nee, a former state secretary of veteran services, says more study is needed before the Legislature rushes to change the Valor Act, which gives judges discretion in cases dealing with vets. (CommonWealth)

A Gloucester Times editorial urges lawmakers to close a loophole in state law and make it illegal for a law enforcement officer to have sex with someone in his or her custody. A recent court case brought the issue to light.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A survey by the Patriot Ledger finds that at least nine communities on the South Shore have scores of properties owing millions in unpaid taxes, including Hingham where 39 delinquent taxpayers owe more than $12.4 million.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Police Commissioner William Evans deny a WBZ report that Evans is leaving to take a post at Boston College. (Boston Herald)

Kevin Peterson says renaming Faneuil Hall, named for slave trader Peter Faneuil, would be a good symbolic gesture.

Weymouth Town Councilor Thomas Lacey, an original member of the council since voters changed to a mayoral form of government on 2000, is resigning citing “recent political events” and demands of his new job as deputy registrar at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. (Patriot Ledger)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen sat with ABC News for his first interview since coming under scrutiny by the special counsel investigating Russia election meddling and indicated a willingness to cooperate, saying his primary loyalty is to his family, not the president.

A court injunction delayed for a few days the federal government’s decision to end transitional housing assistance for Puerto Rican evacuees living in Massachusetts and the rest of the nation, but many landlords (primarily hotels) didn’t get the word. (Boston Globe)

A judge tossed a lawsuit against Washington, DC, alleging the city’s gentrification efforts illegally discriminated against poorer, black residents. (Governing)

ELECTIONS

State Sen. Barbara L’Italien apologized for a fundraising appeal for her congressional campaign that she said inadvertently went out Saturday evening from her official State House email. (Boston Herald)

Mexican voters, sick of government corruption and drug violence, overwhelmingly elected leftist firebrand Lopez Obrador as president. (New York Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Technology company Dell is expected to return to public trading but founder Michael Dell is structuring the shares so he retains control of his namesake corporation. (New York Times)

Some Whole Foods employees and suppliers aren’t pleased with the changes Amazon has made at the organic grocer, with workers contemplating unionizing in the wake of layoffs and vendors balking at the increased charges for selling their products. (Wall Street Journal)

A robocall scam is targeting Chinese-speaking residents around the country, including an increasing number in Massachusetts. The con seeks to convince those on the receiving end to send thousands of dollars to Hong Kong banks under the guise of arrest threats. (Wicked Local)

EDUCATION

Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker says Mayor Marty Walsh never really had schools superintendent Tommy Chang’s back. Meanwhile, Walsh’s vision for the schools remains a bit of a mystery.

Lawrence Bacow, the new president of Harvard, promises a more outward looking university. (Boston Globe) Paul Hattis, an associated professor at Tufts University Medical School, writes an open letter to Bacow. (CommonWealth)

TRANSPORTATION

The family that owns the No Name Restaurant is battling in court the MBTA over its plans to use a track in the Seaport District to test new Red Line cars. The family argues the T’s easement doesn’t cover subway car testing. (Boston Globe)

Parking fines in Boston increase Monday for the first time in a decade, with some violations going up 125 percent. (Boston Herald)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Somerset got a $3.6 million cash infusion from the state’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to offset the tax loss from the two shuttered power plants. (Herald News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The New Bedford Standard-Times has a two-part series looking at the push-pull of setting bail between prosecutors and judges in the wake of a Supreme Judicial Court ruling and several recent controversial cases.

MEDIA

The Berkshire Eagle puts a firm paywall in place. (Berkshire Eagle)

PASSINGS

Former New Bedford mayor, state senator and representative George Rogers, who served 10 months in prison for conspiracy to commit bribery but was still reelected to the city council several times after, has died at the age of 84. (Standard-Times)