Pittsfield Fine-Tunes Final Pot Policy

Apr 12, 2018

Pittsfield’s City Council fine-tuned the terms of its local marijuana regulations Tuesday.

Debate around two amendments to the city’s legal pot ordinance dominated the Pittsfield City Council meeting Tuesday night. One issue was capping the number of retail weed stores in the city. Massachusetts doesn’t require a limit, but after discussion on the floor, the city council opted to impose a maximum of 35, based on the number of liquor license-holders in the city. The other issue concerned a very specific challenge to the ordinance’s mandatory 500-foot buffer zone between any facilities dealing with pot and child care centers.

“My name is Chris Swindlehurst," said Swindlehurst at the city council meeting, "and my wife Christina and I own property at 40 and 50 Melville Street in Pittsfield, and we’ve been approached by a group who would like to do [a] recreational marijuana cultivating facility in our building at 40 Melville Street, and it’s less than 500 feet to the Boys and Girls Club and the Y. So, we would like to ask that you consider changing that aspect of the law for non-retail establishments to 100 feet if possible.”

The group in question?

“QIC Cannabis. We are a small cannabis start-up. I can tell you what QIC stands for — quality, integrity, and culture," said Steven Goldman, QIC’s spokesman. “The number of people we would employ, revenue we would generate, would depend on what facility we are able to obtain in Massachusetts.”

The company was eyeing the Notre Dame Church owned by the Swindlehursts in downtown Pittsfield to house its cultivation facility. The church currently operates as a makerspace called Shire City Sanctuary for small businesses, but its owners have it on the market. It’s less than 200 feet away from the Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires.

Joe McGovern is the CEO of the youth organization.

“We believe that putting any type of facility right there where Melville Street has been the hub for years with the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, the former CYC, and other activities, it’s been the hub for the youth of our community, and we would be sending an awful message to those kids if we allowed this to happen,” said McGovern at the meeting.

Goldman points out that the laws around cultivation facilities are very different from those pertaining to retail stores.

“Essentially, a cultivation facility could be a practically unmarked, secure building, and had you not done your research, you might drive by not even knowing what happens in that building. We’d be able to create our product, generate income for our community, have a positive impact on the community, without really being conspicuous or being noticed,” said Goldman.

“There was clearly a recognition and understanding that cultivation and the way that it’s set up and that operation is far different than the retail side of things," said Councilor John Krol. “I think there were some councilors who recognized that difference, but as the dialogue continued last night, the votes weren’t there. So the 500-foot setback did remain.”

“That is just one-way traffic there on Melville Street, and of course when you have a lot of youth and a lot of activity in that building, there is a real safety concern for me there with buses being on there, dropping kids off and picking kids up, and of course with families going in and out of there," said Councilor Kevin Morandi. He was one of those “no” votes.

“I understand about the revenue stream coming in, that yes it will add revenue to the city, and we certainly can use revenue, but what I also think we need to look at, and I pointed this out the other night, we also have to look at what it’s going to mean for our police department, the effect that it’s going to have on law enforcement now, the extra effect, you know? We’re bringing in more people from New York possibly because [in] New York it’s not legal yet,” said Morandi.

With the vote to maintain the 500-foot buffer from child care facilities regardless of the type of weed facility and the move to cap the number of stores at 35, Pittsfield has now finalized its marijuana ordinance. Legal pot sales can begin in Massachusetts July 1st.