A public hearing is scheduled tonight on a proposal that could keep retail marijuana stores out of the third largest city in Massachusetts until the end of the year.
The Springfield City Council is inviting public comment on a proposed moratorium on non-medical marijuana facilities.
It is one of several public hearings that appear on the agenda for the council meeting that is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the council chambers in City Hall.
The proposed ban on pot stores would last until December 31, 2018, or until the City Council adopts local zoning regulations for the new businesses, whichever comes first.
A moratorium would give the city time to evaluate regulations the state is writing to implement the new marijuana law, according to Philip Dromey, the city’s deputy director of planning.
"The main concern the city has is that we are still waiting on finalized regulations from the state," said Dromey.
The Planning Board voted unanimously earlier this month to recommend the temporary moratorium on retail marijuana stores.
Massachusetts voters in 2016 legalized marijuana for use by adults. The parts of the law allowing for possession and home-cultivation went into effect later that year. The legislature voted to delay the start of retail sales until July 2018.
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has approved 105 pages of proposed regulations for the burgeoning marijuana industry. Chairman Stephen Hoffman said the rules reflect the will of the voters.
" That it be broadly accessible, that it will be secure, it will be safe," said Hoffman.
Final state regulations are due in mid-March and applications for state licenses to sell marijuana are to be available on April 1st.
Dromey said without a moratorium there won’t be much time to address complex issues involving zoning and permitting for the new marijuana establishments.
" Our goal is to get the regulations done as quickly as we can once those state regulations are finalized," said Dromey.
Last year, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission recommended cities and towns put a temporary hold on marijuana stores until the state regulations are finalized, and many municipalities have followed the advice.
After a moratorium, the Springfield City Council four years ago put zoning and special permit requirements in place for medical marijuana dispensaries.
One medical marijuana business has been approved to operate in an industrial area in the city, but it has not yet opened.