As Mayor William C. Reichelt took to social media to pitch his plan for two commercial marijuana facilities on the outskirts of town, citing the potential financial benefits to West Springfield, a local anti-pot activist says the mayor should resign if his million-dollar annual revenue prediction falls short.
Dean Martilli, a consultant and self-described “town advocate,” says Reichelt’s projection of $1 million in annual town tax revenue from a pair of commercial pot facilities — $500,000 apiece — is “dramatically inflated.”
“He’s misrepresenting a big number to the people,” said Martilli, who has taken to calling Reichelt the “Million Dollar Marijuana Mayor” ever since Reichelt estimated what West Side’s financial cut of the action might look like.
“By allowing this into your community, you’re giving kids the wrong message. It just doesn’t look good,” said Martilli, who has worked in politics and as a lobbyist in the past.
Martilli believes embracing recreational pot is a bad idea for West Side, which voted against legalization in a statewide ballot initiative in 2016. But Reichelt, an attorney who was initially opposed to legalization, believes the town should benefit from the law, including revenue-sharing of up to 6 percent for each recreational pot facility that opens in a community.
“I wasn’t a supporter of legalization back in 2016, and we voted against legalization here in West Side,” the mayor said in a video on his Facebook page. “But it was a statewide ballot question and it passed. Marijuana is legal now. We don’t have a choice about legalization anymore. We can’t make it illegal in West Side.”
After West Side voted down recreational and commercial pot, Reichelt drafted a moratorium preventing commercial pot from being sold or manufactured in town until 2019, “or until we regulate and replace the moratorium,” he said.
The Town Council will hold a public hearing tonight at 7 on a proposed amendment to the General Ordinance to prohibit commercial marijuana establishments. If the council bans recreational pot, Reichelt’s zoning proposal for two facilities in an outlying industrial zone would be dead on arrival.
Reichelt told The Republican that he used Northampton’s conservative model for what that city expects to receive from the medical marijuana dispensary operating within its borders. Next year, the dispensary is projected to pay $250,000 to Northampton, based on a 3 percent local tax on the dispensary’s gross annual sales.
Because municipalities can collect the local tax and a 3 percent host community agreement fee, for a combined local tax of 6 percent, Reichelt says he used the 6 percent rate and doubled Northampton’s projection. That would result in West Side receiving around $500,000 from each commercial facility that opens in town, or $1 million from two, according to the mayor.
With about 49,000 medical marijuana cards issued in Massachusetts, 22 percent of the state’s adult population admitting to having used marijuana, and another 14 percent saying they use the drug regularly, Reichelt says the potential market for commercial marijuana is “huge,” from retail operations to cultivation facilities and beyond.
“The conversation is no longer about legalization but regulation,” he said. “We do not have to allow sales in West Side, but before we make that decision, I believe we need to have a sensible discussion about the issue.”
Reichelt says the revenue from commercial pot could be used to pay for additional traffic enforcement, substance abuse education and training, school adjustment councilors, and many other potential uses.
“It goes back to the idea that it’s here, it’s legal now,” said the mayor, “so we have got to deal with the market we have.”
If West Side ultimately opts out of potential commercial pot money, “we wouldn’t really be a different community,” he said. “We’d just kind of be a left-behind community.”
Reichelt’s zoning amendments would permit commercial cannabis establishments in industrial zones, but only after site plan review and special permitting. Strict odor and signage regulations would be required for facilities, which would not be allowed to operate within 500 feet of a house, school, church, daycare center, park, playground or other places where children congregate.
West Springfield residents voted 6,339 to 5,813 against legalizing recreational pot in the November 2016 ballot measure, which was supported by a majority of Massachusetts municipalities.