Smoothing the way for more marijuana shopsPosted by On

When the Boston Cannabis Board was established in early 2020 by then-Mayor Marty Walsh and the Boston City Council, the move was welcomed by local elected officials and industry watchers. Up until then, the city’s process to license new marijuana shops was slow, mired in confusion, and lacking transparency. As one cannabis industry insider told the Globe at the time: “I think they’re completely making it all up as they go along.”

The five-member cannabis board, with members appointed by the mayor, was supposed to bring more independence and clarity to the process of evaluating and approving prospective pot establishments in the city. Indeed, the process has become a little more predictable for entrepreneurs. But to further streamline it, officials in the administration of Mayor Michelle Wu want to eliminate what they call an existing “unneeded barrier” for marijuana companies, particularly applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds: the requirement of an additional hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The Wu administration is on the right track. The ZBA step was understood initially as just a formality. But in practice, it became a place for neighbors to oppose applicants that had already been cleared by the cannabis board and to complain about violations of the half-mile buffer zone rule between marijuana shops. That rule, proposed by councilor Michael Flaherty and…

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