Marijuana Licensing FAQs
- I’ve heard Brookline is a “yes” community- what is a “yes” community, and how does living in a “yes” community impact me?
A majority (59.98%) of Brookline residents voted “Yes” to Question 4 on the 2016 State election ballot to legalize adult-use Marijuana, making Brookline a “Yes” community. “No” communities are those in which the majority of residents voted “No” to Question 4.
A “Yes” community could not place certain controls on Marijuana Retailers (businesses that sell Marijuana directly to the consumer) unless those limitations were approved by BOTH Town Meeting AND via a Town-wide referendum.
In preparation of the State's July 1, 2018 deadline (when recreational marijuana could be legally sold to consumers), Town Boards, Committees, and Departments worked proactively to introduce a series of Warrant Articles to create a regulatory process for Marijuana Establishments. Warrant Articles 17 to 22 were approved at the May 2018 Annual Town Meeting.
- What are the rules for marijuana establishments?
The State regulations are extensive and complex, compiled in an 88-page document that governs various use types (grow, sell, etc.). State regulations do not give much local control over Marijuana Establishments, which is why the Town proposed the regulatory scheme included in Warrant Articles 17 to 22. To review current State regulations, please visit the links to the Enabling Legislation on Cannabis Control Commission site.
Find our local rules on our Marijuana Licensing Regulations page.
- How were the town by-laws drafted?
Feedback and recommendations from various public safety departments, including Police, Fire, and Health, were instrumental in informing all of the proposed warrant articles, which were vetted through the Select Board’s Licensing Review Committee. A combination of public meetings, hearings, surveys, and other tools were utilized to understand the pulse of the community when drafting regulatory proposals.
- Where can marijuana establishments locate in Brookline?
Table 4.07 of the Zoning By-Law indicates those business districts in which various Marijuana Establishments are permitted by Special Permit. Section 4.13 of the Zoning By-Law specifies other controls including minimum distance from K-12 schools, minimum distance from another Marijuana Retailer, whether the building contains a pre-existing daycare center, and maximum store size. Warrant Article 21 features an amendment to Section 8.37 of the General By-Law.
- What does a licensing scheme do?
A licensing scheme allows the Select Board to issue licenses and review Marijuana Establishments on an annual basis similar to the way we do with alcohol establishments, like restaurants and package stores. This adds local control under the Select Board. A license may also be revoked or not renewed under certain conditions, and requires the Marijuana Establishment to appear before the Select Board on a yearly basis for license renewal.
- What is the maximum number of marijuana retailers in town?
Currently, the Town can issue four licenses for each type of Marijuana Retailer. Section 8.37 of the General By-Law establishes a cap equal to 20% of package store licenses issued (rounded up) for each of the following categories of Marijuana Retailers:
- Storefront retailers (“take-out”)
- Social Consumption retailers (on-site consumption)
- Delivery-Only retailers (an Amazon.com-type model)
Note: The number of package store licenses is decided by the census and based on the Town’s population. This means the number of package store licenses can vary.
- Why set a cap of 20% for marijuana retailers?
Setting a cap at 20% allows for the integration of the industry while avoiding a proliferation of these business types so that the Town can better adapt to them and respond with any additional needed regulations over time. By law, the municipality has the authority to establish a cap, and the Town may increase or decrease the cap of Marijuana licenses accordingly (subject to limitations applicable to “Yes” communities, see above).
- Why can’t we ban all marijuana establishments?
Because 60% of Brookline voters voted in a favor of Question 4 on the State election ballot, the warrant articles did not propose a ban on marijuana establishments. In addition, the law is gray about whether a community with an existing medical marijuana dispensary can ban its expansion into retail marijuana sales.
- Can people consume marijuana in public?
No, Section 8.38 of the General By-law clearly states “no person shall smoke, ingest, consume…Marijuana or Marijuana Products while in or upon any public street, sidewalk… playground…” and other locations. This is consistent with the State law and provides a local by-law enforcement mechanism.
- Will this ban my use of marijuana in my home?
No, Section 8.38 of the General By-Law bans the consumption of Marijuana in public places and cultivation of Marijuana and Hemp (which look the same) in public view. In addition, it restricts residential personal manufacture and extraction at home to non-solvent based extraction methods, since methods which use combustible materials can be dangerous. With these exceptions, the by-law is generally aimed to regulate businesses not residents.
- Can people consume marijuana in restaurants?
Not with the Warrant Articles proposed and approved at the Annual May 2018 Town Meeting. The CCC has not yet begun licensing “Social Consumption” Marijuana Retailers (businesses selling marijuana for on-site consumption). In addition, under State law, a community must “opt-in” before the CCC will license Social Consumption establishments there, through a Town-wide referendum. The law details the procedures for this. The Town provides for this Use by Special Permit in anticipation of CCC's licensing of these establishments in order to have measures in place.
- Can an existing store also sell marijuana?
If an existing store is compliant with all the zoning regulations, undergoes a rigorous Site Plan Review process with the Police, Fire, Health, and Transportation Departments, is granted a Special Permit by the Board of Appeals, is issued a license from the Select Board and a license from the CCC, then Yes. However, State laws have certain restrictions. For example, alcohol and Marijuana cannot be sold together, Marijuana products must be separated from other non-Marijuana products and not accessible to those under the age of 21, among other rules.
- Can i just walk in and buy recreational marijuana?
Some retailers allow walk-ins and others may require an appointment. State regulations require retailers to check IDs at the door and use other measures, which the Town regulations and licenses have incorporated. Please check with individual retailers for details about their procedures.
- Are marijuana establishments secure?
State law requires that Marijuana facilities be secure, regardless of the type of use. For example, the Marijuana product must be kept separate from consumers, even from certain employees, in a secure location.
- How do I apply for license to open a marijuana establishment in Brookline?
All Marijuana Establishments go through a two-step process with multiple opportunities for public comment.
- As part of the application process for a Special Permit, the applicant must obtain reports from Police Fire, Health, Transportation Departments and sign off from the Building and Planning Departments for that particular Marijuana Establishment and its specific location. The Departments will generate reports to the Zoning Board of Appeals based on their expertise and any pertinent public feedback. The Zoning Board of Appeals will consider the reports in determining whether or not to issue a Special Permit.
- The license application process is similar to that for liquor licenses. The Select Board determines whether an applicant should be issued a license.
The applicant cannot open for business without a Special Permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals, a license from the Select Board, and a license from the State.
- How do I stay informed through the public process in respect to future marijuana licenses?
Sign up for Select Board hearing notifications via the “Notify Me” notification system. You should consider signing up for notifications from the Planning Board and the Board of Appeals.