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Town of Lee signs Host Community Agreement with Sweetgrass Botanicals/Extractions

Town officials employed a new standard promulgated by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission.

Lee — The town Select Board approved Chair Gordon Bailey to sign a Host Community Agreement (HCA) with Sweetgrass Botanicals LLC and Sweetgrass Extractions LLC on June 4, the protocol that defines the relationship between a cannabis entity and the town in which it operates. That agreement can be found here.

Owned by Cassandra Purdy, Sweetgrass opened on Laurel Street/Route 20 in January as a cannabis dispensary and manufacturer featuring an on-site hashish-extraction lab.

Although such agreements had preceded the Sweetgrass contract, Lee’s recent HCA document was in accord with new regulations promulgated by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). Over the past few months, Berkshire County and Commonwealth municipalities have been involved in litigation focused on community impact fees (CIFs) imposed by the town to cover the costs of mitigation efforts stemming from maintaining the facility in its borders, such as police details. Proponents of these legal cases argued that the fees were imposed in advance of being incurred and without proof the municipality actually sustained the expenses paid.

The Sweetgrass HCA was executed the same day as the Lee Select Board meeting and with most, if not all, of the facility’s employees in attendance, as well as the company’s representative, Peter D’Agostino, online. The contract is in effect for five years, through June 2029.

The agreement incorporated the model HCA form suggested by the CCC on its website. Although Sweetgrass is required to pay a community impact fee of not more than three percent of its gross sales to Lee for its operational impact to the town—including any extra burden on law enforcement or fire protection—municipal officials are now obligated to show invoices reflecting those expenditures. This doesn’t negate Sweetgrass’s duty as a local business to pay the other fees required to operate in Lee: permit, license, and application costs and taxes.

“What we understand [is] this [HCA] complies with the new state law, Chapter 180,” D’Agostino said. “We clearly appreciate the town’s work on this with us.” He also praised the “great partnership” the facility has with Lee, with an eye towards continuing the positive relationship.

Bailey said he reviewed the document with Town Administrator Christopher Brittain prior to the meeting. “The Cannabis [Control] Commission changed all the rules,” Bailey said in response to a question posed by resident Kathy Hall about a summary of the new document. “The real scoop is we aren’t asking for any money or anything (CIFs) at this point in time, ahead of time.”

Board member Sean Regnier added that the CIFs would be billed in December, the anniversary of the company’s opening. “So, instead of getting upfront costs, we’ll wait and bill out what actual fees will be used, like if they need police details or if they need other things,” Bailey said. “The agreement does spell out they still owe taxes and water and sewer—the normal, standard things any business would.”

Board member Robert “Bob” Jones recused himself from the discussion and vote.

Last month, residents passed the cannabis zoning amendment, limiting the number of marijuana-cultivation licenses in Lee to the single farm already in operation.

At the June 4 session, the Select Board also approved a temporary sign permit and fee waiver to the First Congregational Church in conjunction with its craft fair; reappointed Regnier as its representative to the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority Advisory Board; and approved three members at large—Bill DeFreest, Sandra Dignard, and Robert Wright—to the Public Safety Building Committee.

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