Massachusetts marijuana retailer challenges community impact fees

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A marijuana retailer in Haverhill, Massachusetts, is alleging in a lawsuit that officials in the store’s host city are violating state law by not justifying the need for so-called community impact fees.

“We believe the city is asking for a large amount of money in impact fees without demonstrating any actual impacts to the community. We believe this is unfair and unlawful,” Stem owner Caroline Pineau told Boston TV station WHDH.

The retailer’s lawsuit is challenging Haverhill’s authority to collect a $400,000 community impact fee, WHDH reported.

Under Massachusetts law, cannabis retailers must obtain a “host community agreement” from the town or city in which they plan to operate.

The host community, however, has the right to seek reimbursement for extra costs related to the marijuana companies doing business in the town – for example, extra police officers for traffic or security – but only up to 3% of the business’ annual revenue.

By state law, however, the town must explain why the impact fees are being imposed.

Many towns, however, simply ask businesses to reimburse them for 3% without explaining what the funds are needed for.

Stem’s lawsuit, filed in Essex Superior Court, is demanding that Haverhill officials clearly state what impact the store is having on the community.

“All we’re asking for is that the fees be substantiated and authenticated with documentation as required by the law and then we’d be happy to pay the money,” Pineau said the TV station.

Haverhill officials disagreed with Stem’s complaint and vowed to fight the lawsuit.

“We are deeply disappointed that this one company, after gaining their permits and getting access to a prime location downtown, now seeks to avoid paying what they agreed to pay,” Mayor James Fiorentini told WHDH.

A judge is expected to hear the case in late May.