Superior Court Judge Hears Request from Haverhill Marijuana Retailer for Bar on ‘Impact Fees’

A security guard sits in front of Stem, 124 Washington St., Haverhill. (WHAV News file photograph.)

A Superior Court judge heard a Haverhill marijuana retailer’s request Monday for an order relieving the store of paying a community “impact fee” of $356,000 until a larger question over such fees is resolved by the courts.

Essex County Superior Court Judge James F. Lang, sitting in Newburyport and listening to testimony remotely, heard from lawyers from Stem, 124 Washington St., and the City of Haverhill, but did not issue an immediate ruling. Stem had sought an emergency injunction before May 26—the date Stem’s fee is due to the city or have the court hold the company’s payment. If not, the downtown retailer said in filings, it would suffer “irreparable harm” because the city could charge interest and late penalties.

The city’s related request to dismiss Stem’s case has not yet been heard, but Mayor James J. Fiorentini issued a statement late Monday afternoon, saying he stands by the city’s position.

“There was nothing new raised during the hearing that changes our view that plaintiff is not entitled to the preliminary injunction, and that the Host Community Agreement is valid under the law. We remain confident that Stem will have to comply with the agreement it signed. This agreement is fair, reasonable and lawful,” the mayor said.

In a statement reported previously by WHAV, Stem’s Caroline Pineau argues to the contrary, saying, “The law says the impact fee needs to be reasonably related to a cannabis establishment and that the fee must be documented. This law was on the books long before we signed the HCA (Host Community Agreement) and the law makes clear the city has to document costs, if any, related to the operation of the cannabis establishment. We don’t think it’s unreasonable to request that the city follow the law.”

Stem was represented by attorney Thomas MacMillan, while Haverhill was represented by City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. and outside council Michele E. Randazzo.

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