Malden’s Zoning War Against Social Equity Cannabis Businesses Continues

“We applied 27 months ago and were approved 19 months ago. We have been in purgatory since.”

There has been a lot of talk throughout the Bay State cannabis industry of late about abusive cities and towns and the hoops that officials make companies jump through in order to open for business. But of all the municipal nonsense we’ve seen, the situation in Malden may be the most ridiculous.

In this city north of Boston, officials don’t seem to care much about greenlighting social equity applicants. Malden does have two dispensaries open for business—Eastern Cannabis Company and Misty Mountain Shop—but other applicants have been unable to open. Those two stores also waited forever, but were able to cross the finish line.

“We applied 27 months ago and were approved 19 months ago,” the attorney for Benevolent Botanicals told a Massachusetts Land Court judge during a hearing on the matter today. “We have been in purgatory since.”

The rub is over zoning; specifically, ridiculous parameters that Malden put in place. The building Benevolent Botanicals hopes to occupy at 926 Eastern Ave is 61 feet from the edge of a buffer zone, but the city says they have to be 75 feet away. As Boston Business Journal reported last week:

In the court documents, Benevolent Botanicals further claims that Malden’s buffer zone laws go far beyond state regulations. Massachusetts law says that cannabis businesses cannot be opened within 500 feet of a school. But Malden’s laws further stipulate that cannabis establishments can’t be within 75 feet of residential and religious spaces, substance use treatment centers and daycares, and must be at least 250 feet from parks.

We listened in on today’s hearing, and it’s clear that Malden lawyers are digging their heels in. So far, the city has asked for four different extensions to produce experts and have yet to bring any, while Benevolent Botanicals has five experts ready to testify about why the zoning is illegal. Attorneys on both sides today expressed interest in having the court issue a summary judgment, though the case could head to trial.

“Our goal is to get the fastest possible resolution for our clients,” an attorney for Benevolent Botanicals said in court.