City Signs Pact with Mellow Fellows, But Concedes Gift to School Drug Prevention Programs ‘Voluntary’

While Mayor James J. Fiorentini has signed the fourth and last host community agreement with a recreational marijuana retailer, questions remain as to whether the city can count on money from the businesses for substance abuse prevention programs.

Last Friday, Fiorentini signed an agreement with Mellow Fellows for its 330 Amesbury Road location. It calls for, among other things, a Community Impact Fee of 3% of gross sales to paid to Haverhill for five years. When city councilors approved Mellow fellows’ special permit last August, members conditioned approval on the operation also paying the school department $22,000 a year for three years. Since then, U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling has called into question the legality of those extra payments. Taking no chances, Fiorentini told WHAV Tuesday, the city now considers any extra contributions above the state-allowed 3% as “voluntary.”

School pediatrician John L. Maddox first championed the idea last May of asking retailers to pay for substance abuse prevention and addiction programs be paid by applicants.

Haverhill Councilors to Reconsider Vote of Required Parking Licenses for Downtown Marijuana Retailer

Haverhill city councilors will try again tonight to grant licenses for two parking spaces—that the body, itself, required—to a planned downtown marijuana retailer. Early last month, councilors defeated the police department-recommended parking license for Haverhill Stem, 124 Washington St., when the vote fell short because of opposition from City Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua and an unusual number of member absences. Councilors voted 4-1 to approve the use of two city-owned parking spaces on Phoenix Row, but five votes were required. Normally, the City Council does not allow a repeat petition for six months, but its rules allow exceptions. All but two city councilors last week consented in writing to allowing the parking license to return to the agenda.

Year-in-Review: Only 1 of 5 Proposed Marijuana Shops Sidelined in 2019; Confusion Grips Another

Only one of five proposed Haverhill recreational marijuana shops was sidelined in 2019. Haverwell Market pulled its special permit request from the Haverhill City Council after it came under scrutiny over its ownership,

Christopher Edwards initially brought Haverwell’s request for 399 Amesbury Road before the Council Aug. 20. Members, led by Councilor William J. Macek, tabled the request after 11th hour ownership questions came to light. Councilor Colin F. LePage also said he received notification of Haverwell Market’s corporate name change the previous Friday.

Haverhill Councilor LePage Backs DiZoglio Bill to Ban Marijuana Billboards; Rule Similar to Tobacco Ads

A legislative bill that aims to ban marijuana billboard advertising, similar to rules that apply to tobacco, is receiving backing from Haverhill City Councilor Colin F. LePage. Back in October, LePage successfully petitioned Stoneham-based Clear Channel Outdoor to remove a billboard near the corner of Essex and Locust Streets that promoted an online marijuana search engine. Since then, Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan asked Sen. Diana DiZoglio to file a bill to correct the problem. DiZoglio embraced the idea and, just last week, the bill was referred to the legislature’s committee on Cannabis Policy. The proposed legislation would change an existing law that allows television, radio, internet, billboard or print marijuana advertising when “at least 85 per cent of the audience is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older.” Instead, the senator’s bill calls for removing billboards from the list and bans the outdoor vehicle from being “used for advertising, marketing or branding of marijuana or marijuana products.”

For LePage, it’s personal.

Mellow Fellows Makes Progress on Haverhill Host Agreement; Plans Wednesday Meeting

Mellow Fellows, which has been awarded a special permit to open a retail marijuana shop at 330 Amesbury Road, is making progress negotiating a host agreement with the city—a process slowed by federal scrutiny. The company’s lawyer, James Smith, tells WHAV there have been delays across the Commonwealth as a result of inquiries by U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling. Other than Fall River, where its mayor has been charged with extorting marijuana vendors, Smith says, “This (delay) is happening around the state. The U.S. attorney has subpoenaed communities around the state…I suspect, probably all…They’re looking for things, that at least in my experience, don’t exist.”

The lack of a host agreement—required by state regulations—for Haverhill, though, means Mellow Fellows must have a second community outreach meeting Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., at Haverhill Public Library, 99 Main St. The second meeting is required since establishments must hear from the public within six months of seeking state permission to operate.

Confusion Causes Haverhill Councilors to Reconsider Marijuana Parking Space Vote Next Week

Controversy over marijuana retailing continued to perplex Haverhill city councilors Tuesday night. Councilors believed they had approved a police department-recommended parking license for Haverhill Stem on Washington Street, but the vote actually fell short because of opposition from City Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua and member absences. Councilors voted 4-1 to approve the use of two city-owned parking spaces on Phoenix Row, but five votes were required. The confusion was evident when acting Council President Thomas J. Sullivan assessed the vote. “We will assume it was a motion to pass and we will get a clarification from the city solicitor on that.

Report: Grand Jury Exploring Municipal Pot Agreements

A federal grand jury is looking into the mandatory agreements and payments between host communities and marijuana businesses, according to a report in the Boston Globe, delving into an issue that state regulators and legislators have also been wrestling with. The Boston Globe reported Monday night that at least six communities—Great Barrington, Eastham, Leicester, Newton, Northampton and Uxbridge—have received subpoenas from U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office seeking details on the communities’ host community agreements with marijuana businesses. State law requires applicants for marijuana business licenses to enter into a host community agreement before the Cannabis Control Commission will consider an application. The law stipulates that those agreements cannot run for more than five years and that the community impact fee paid to the municipality by the licensee cannot exceed three percent of the establishment’s gross sales. But the CCC has wrestled with the policy for more than a year now as entrepreneurs, lawyers and lobbyists have shared stories about cities or towns demanding a greater percentage of gross sales or other asks that would not appear to comply with the language of the law.

Amesbury Road Neighbor Sues to Appeal Mellow Fellows Marijuana Special Permit

Nearly two months after Haverhill’s City Council voted to grant Phil Brown, Tim Riley and Charles Emery a special permit to sell marijuana as the Mellow Fellows, a neighbor on Amesbury Road is contesting the zoning of their property in Superior Court. In a civil action filed Oct. 8, Steven Eddy—filing individually and as a trustee of the 32 Wannalancet Road Realty Trust—brought suit against the City of Haverhill and all nine councilors, including Michael S. McGonagle, who owns the property in question at 330 Amesbury Road along with his sister Kathy McGonagle Darby. Eddy owns 298 Amesbury Road, which abuts the Mellow Fellows’ proposed shop. The zoning appeal submitted by Lowell-based Attorney William F. Martin Jr. calls the restrictions the Council placed on the Mellow Fellows—no more than four appointments every 15 minutes and a shelter for security personnel—“ entirely insufficient” because the company does not yet have a host community agreement inked with Mayor James J. Fiorentini.