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The news this week that a small Massachusetts town is charging more than $1.3 million in “impact fees” to the three cannabis companies operating within its city limits has reopened the debate over the true impact of cannabis businesses on local communities.

In a recently filed lawsuit, the cannabis retailer Stem revealed that the city of Haverhill, Massachusetts, is charging its three cannabis businesses a total of $1.3 million in annual impact fees—and $866,930 of that total is earmarked for the town’s police department.

Those impact fees are being charged despite the fact that myths about cannabis businesses boosting crime have been debunked time and time again. In fact, there’s evidence that cannabis legalization can actually improve local crime clearance rates.

Even as they operate as positive law-abiding forces in their communities, cannabis companies still have to combat the negative stereotypes perpetuated by America’s War on Drugs.

Without any evidence of negative community impact, we’re left to wonder why some towns and cities are allowed to charge cannabis businesses for additional policing.

Cannabiz impact in Massachusetts

Massachusetts’ legalization law allows local communities to charge impact fees that are “reasonably related to the costs imposed upon the municipality by the operation of the marijuana establishment.”

Unlike most other legal states, Massachusetts law forces cannabis companies to sign Host Community Agreements (HCAs) with the town in which they operate. This gives local communities enormous leverage over cannabis companies—which encourages them to tax the daylights out of the local weed stores.

Many Bay State towns use HCAs to create their own mitigation fees based on how they imagine cannabis businesses will impact their townships.

The law was put in place in 2018, when there was little data about the impact of cannabis companies on rates of local substance abuse, intoxicated driving, and crime.

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