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HOLYOKE — Mayoral candidate Rebecca Lisi continues to lead in ensuring that Holyoke benefits with jobs, revenue and new businesses marijuana industry.

The City Council on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 approved an amendment to an ordinance regarding cannabis rules proposed by Lisi, a city councilor at large and chairwoman of the Council’s Ordinance Committee.

The vote lets marijuana manufacturers run 24 hours a day, permits home pot delivery and strengthens oversight.

“From the outset, I saw that the legalization of marijuana would be a perfect fit for Holyoke and the vision of a revitalized downtown that I have been advocating for since my first run for office in 2005. Marijuana operations make use of our vacant industrial mill buildings and cheap municipal electric and water rates. And as mayor, I will continue to help our city gain jobs and tax revenue from new businesses.”

Specifically, the approval of Lisi‘s plan eases the way for entrepreneurs to launch pot home delivery businesses under the state’s social equity program.

This advance helps new business owners like Morriss Partee of Holyoke, who plans to operate a pot home delivery company called Emerald River.

“This progress is a clear indication that Holyoke remains fully committed to being a thriving hub for cannabis businesses in Western Massachusetts,” Partee said. 

“I’m glad to be on track to open a cannabis delivery company in the city in which I reside, after spending a great deal of time last summer and fall advocating for the license type to the CCC (Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission), alongside my fellow Massachusetts Cannabis Association for Delivery board members.”

The City Council’s approval of the Lisi-led ordinance change was welcomed by local entrepreneur, Damaris Aponte.

“The delivery provision is a great beginning for Latinos in Holyoke. Equity is giving us Latinos, living in Holyoke, a chance to own a piece of the industry,” Aponte said.

“Beyond deliveries, the marijuana industry is bringing so many local jobs. Our Latino residents would be able to easily transfer their agricultural skills and experience to these new jobs. Rebecca sees the future and knows cannabis is an industry that will help Holyoke thrive again.”

State law mandates that the cannabis business include people from Black and brown communities subjected for decades to disproportionately high rates of marijuana arrests.

The equity program guarantees that for three years, all delivery business licenses are reserved for companies whose owners were affected by the war on drugs.

Holyoke is among 29 cities and towns that the CCC has identified as having been “disproportionately harmed” over the years by marijuana arrests and incarceration. 

Lisi saw the economic development benefits Holyoke could gain from the marijuana industry and was among its earliest supporters.

By the numbers, here’s how the marijuana industry has helped Holyoke:

——GTI/RISE, 28 Appleton St., which does cultivation and manufacturing, employs 100 people.

——Canna Provisions Inc., 380R Dwight St., is a marijuana dispensary with at least 20 employees.

——Holyoke Cannabis, 380R Dwight St., is a marijuana dispensary with 20 employees.

——Boston Bud Factory, 73 Sargeant St., is a dispensary also licensed for manufacturing. It has 10 employees.

——Marijuana businesses have added $5,726,900 in real property value since 2017 and provided $1,143,085 in tax revenue (Source: Holyoke Board of Assessors)

——Host community agreements with marijuana companies have paid the following into the city’s general fund: Fiscal 2021, $1,146,564; Fiscal 2020, $394,724; Fiscal 2019, $50,000. (Source: Holyoke city auditor)

——This year the city will begin collecting a 3 percent state excise tax based on local sales, which is $222,000 for Fiscal 2021. (Source: Holyoke city auditor)

——Existing and planned marijuana businesses mean that hundreds of thousands of previously vacant industrial square footage is occupied and generating tax revenue.

——Activity on the horizon could dwarf such already impressive numbers: Dozens of other proposed marijuana companies are either fully permitted or proceeding through the city licensing process.

The City Council at Tuesday’s meeting voted 9-3 to approve the following:

“The Committee on Ordinance to whom was referred an order that the Holyoke Code of Ordinances 7.10 “Marijuana Facilities” be reviewed and amended: including any amendments to definitions, zone requirements, and changes to the permitting process.”

This vote:

——allows marijuana manufacturing facilities to operate round-the-clock. This allows for three different work shifts, more jobs and more production; 

——reduces setback requirements for manufacturing facilities to 200 feet from the previous 500 feet;

——permits home marijuana deliveries. This is important in terms of tax revenue. That’s because, since the city cannot prohibit deliveries to Holyoke from other communities, this authorization secures opportunities for Holyoke to get tax revenue from Holyoke-based delivery companies and small business entrepreneurship, as, again, social equity applicants are given preference in delivery licensing;

——requires a pre-application meeting to ensure that the City Council is receiving complete and satisfactory applications to review;

——establishes a site plan review component that helps the city to ensure that companies are complying with special permit conditions as projects move forward.

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