US (MA): Agawam councilors open door for cannabis growers

Despite a longstanding opposition to recreational cannabis, the council this week voted overwhelmingly in favor of proposals by Mayor William Sapelli to allow recreational cannabis suppliers to grow their product indoors, in industrial zones, and to reduce the buffer zone between cultivation sites and non-industrial properties.

Councilors said as long as there are no retail sales on-site, it makes sense to take advantage of the revenues associated with the cannabis industry, as long as it’s in a business that won’t change the character of its neighborhood.

“It could be manufacturing hubcaps or anything else inside, and nobody would have any other overt knowledge of it, other than signage on the building,” Mercadante said. “Agawam has an ambitious schedule in front of it with infrastructure issues, and looking for other revenue streams … this is one that would be rather innocuous.”

Town Solicitor Stephen Buoniconti told the council that “more and more developers are getting into this area,” and Agawam officials have received several phone calls from would-be cultivators interested in setting up an operation in Agawam. He said a cannabis grower would likely sign a host agreement paying the town 3% or more of its gross revenues, yielding an annual revenue of $200,000 to $500,000 per cultivator.

Councilors voted 10-0 in favor of allowing indoor cultivators on industrial parcels. They also voted 9-1 to reduce the required buffer zone from cannabis businesses to non-industrial properties from 500 feet, measured from property line to property line, to 250 feet, measured building-to-building. Council Vice President Cecilia Calabrese was the only “no” vote.

In order to take effect, the amendments have to be voted a second time. They will appear on the council’s June 21 agenda. Councilor Robert Rossi voted in favor of both amendments even though he had been one of the ban’s most strident supporters. The ban was intended to keep retailers out of town, he said.

Although the town allows medical cannabis facilities, none have been built in Agawam. The town has permitted a medical cannabis dispensary in the Herzenberg building next to the South End Bridge, but it has not begun construction.

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