What revenue could Newburyporters expect from cannabis sales and how could that money be spent?

Local revenue estimates from two stores in Newburyport range from $200K per year (estimate from the City finance director) to $960K per year (estimate from a cannabis lobbyist group). The actual number will be dependent on many factors such as the actual local sales, the tax rate (percent of sales) that we work out in a host City agreement, etc. A helpful local example is that the Amesbury City Council anticipates approximately $1M per year in retail cannabis tax revenue. In addition, MA Department of Revenue has estimated an average yearly state tax income of $219M from legal cannabis sales across the state. Currently every municipality including Newburyport will receive a portion of that state tax. However, the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) is currently considering legislation to deny municipalities that ban dispensaries their share in the state revenue in addition to lost local sales tax. 


The money from local and state tax revenue would go directly to our general fund and could be instrumental in funding important public priorities such as sidewalks, roads, school funds and behavioral health programs such as alcohol and drug prevention and treatment. Retail cannabis is not a panacea to ourbudgetary problems but is certainly a new source of much needed revenue for the city. 

What would a dispensary in Newburyport look like?

Explicit and strict statewide regulations apply to all retail cannabis dispensaries and these regulations MUST be adhered to in Newburyport. Regulations prohibit dispensaries from having signs, window displays, or any other printed matter advertising cannabis products or cannabis brands. Therefore, the store won’t actually look like anything at all—which is exactly what the CCC wants. 

Where would dispensaries in Newburyport go?

The City Council passed zoning in October 2018 restricting cannabis sales to only 2 zones: one at the Storey Avenue Business District and one by the Route 1 traffic circle (largely limited to the plaza next to Kelly’s on State St). However, restrictions on signage and window displays mean the dispensaries would look more like private medical offices than package stores.

How are dispensaries regulated?

MA cannabis dispensaries are licensed and regulated by the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), which was created with the mission to “honor the will of the voters of Massachusetts by safely, equitably and effectively implementing and administering the laws enabling access to medical and adult use marijuana in the Commonwealth.” https://mass-cannabis-control.com

What safeguards are in place to prevent youth exposure?

Under state law, cannabis establishments may not be located within 500 feet of a pre-existing public or private schools providing education in kindergarten through grade 12. Identification checks, security guards, and locked security doors ensure that no one under the age of 21 ever enters a dispensary and additional ID checks at the point of sale ensure no minors are able to make a purchase. Cannabis purchases are sold in child-resistant packaging and are clearly labeled with state approved uniform wording and pictographs.

What does “regulated cannabis” mean?

In 2016, Massachusetts residents voted 54% in favor and 46% against to “tax and regulate cannabis like alcohol.” That means that “adult-use” cannabis (sometimes referred to as “recreational” cannabis) can now be sold to adults over the age of 21 in specially licensed and regulated stores or dispensaries. While cannabis can be purchased tax-free by those with a medical card, those purchasing recreational cannabis pay an additional 17% combined state sales and excise tax. The MA Department of Revenue has estimated cannabis tax revenue of $44-$82M in fiscal year 2019. Under Massachusetts' adult-use cannabis laws, adults 21 or older are allowed to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana or 5 grams of concentrate outside of their residence and up to 10 ounces of marijuana inside their residence. Additionally, adults may possess and cultivate up to 6 marijuana plants with a maximum of 12 per household.

Why is regulated cannabis safer than black market cannabis?

In short, regulated cannabis is subject to strict controls and black-market cannabis is not. Regulated cannabis is tracked from seed to shop and it is tested for purity and potency. Standardized testing and monitoring of potency and quality create a safer product. Since cannabis is now a legal substance in MA, consumers must be able to buy it safely without fear of contaminants. Cannabis purchased from a dispensary is safe, pure, and regulated uniformly across the Commonwealth. 

What are our neighboring communities doing?

Dispensaries in Salisbury at 107 Elm Street and Amesbury along Rt. 110 are both in the final stages of licensing and approval and will be opening soon. Newbury has also been zoned for retail cannabis in all business districts. Currently a cultivation site at 123 Bridge Road in Salisbury (a little over a mile from downtown Newburyport) was just approved. A potential cultivator is being discussed with the appropriate boards in Newburyport in the Business Park.

Didn’t we vote on this already?

YES! In 2016 Newburyport voted by a 10-point margin to legalize the taxation and regulation of adult use cannabis. The Ballot Summary stated, “The proposed law would permit the possession, use, distribution, and cultivation of marijuana in limited amounts by persons age 21 and older and would remove criminal penalties for such activities. It would provide for the regulation of commerce in marijuana, marijuana accessories, and marijuana products and for the taxation of proceeds from sales of these items.”

What does a YES/NO vote mean on the November ballot?

  • Vote NO to reject a retail ban and allow a limited number of shops in Newburyport
  • Vote NO to respect the vote and the will of the majority of Newburyporters
  • Vote NO to say yes to tax revenue for schools and sidewalks

When do I vote?

Vote at our next municipal election, November 5, 2019

Not Registered to vote? https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ovr/

How can I get involved?

Email us here at info@NewburyportCAN.org. Tell your friends and be sure to “like” and follow our Facebook page.

What local control/regulation options do we have?

The City has the ability to regulate the minimum age for sales of cannabis via the Health Department and Planning Board approvals including making the minimum age higher than 21. The City will also have the option to create Host Community Agreements and public hearings are required before any agreements can be signed so that every Newburyporter can have their opinion heard. The City also has the ability to limit the number of shops and the City Council has set that limit at no more than two stores.

How can the City get money to offset increases in law enforcement costs from having dispensaries here?

The City is allowed to impose a 3% “community negative impact fee” in addition to the local sales tax for reasonably related costs imposed upon the municipality by the operation of the marijuana establishment. This money can be used to support additional police officers, security guards, educational programs, etc.