Amherst, Holyoke join list of towns subpoenaed over pot pacts

  •  A marijuana leaf  AP PHOTO/RICHARD VOGEL

Staff Writer
Saturday, November 09, 2019

Amherst and Holyoke have joined Northampton and Easthampton as Massachusetts communities receiving subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney’s Office seeking information about their agreements with marijuana companies.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said Wednesday that a subpoena was delivered to Amherst, though he wouldn’t elaborate further on its contents based on advice from town attorney KP Law.

“Our attorney’s advice is to acknowledge we’ve received, and to refer the content of the subpoenas to the U.S. attorney’s office,” Bockelman said.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse said because deals have been reached with cannabis businesses, he wasn’t surprised the city got a subpoena.

“It looks like it was every community that has a host community agreement executed,” Morse said.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling has been leading an effort to curb local corruption related to the cannabis industry, moving forward with prosecuting former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia over allegations of extortion of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

On Tuesday, the Gazette reported that Northampton and Easthampton had received subpoenas from Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Grady to testify before a grand jury in Boston Nov. 14.

Morse said he doesn’t believe there are any issues with Holyoke’s agreements.

“What I think is great about the way Holyoke has set up the process is we have one form host community agreement for every company,” Morse said. “We’ve never asked for anything more than what state law allows host communities to ask for.”

Morse went on to say that the city will provide any information needed and that the city’s host community agreements are a model for other cities to follow.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz provided documents showing that what authorities are seeking are drafts and final versions of host community agreements, communication between cities and towns and the companies, and records from public meetings.

Northampton has 10 adult-use marijuana retail licenses, six for product manufacturing, two for cultivation and one for a testing laboratory. In those contracts, marijuana retailers pay 3 percent of gross revenue from product sales to the city, plus a $10,000 contribution to one or several nonprofits to support marijuana education and prevention.

In a statement, Narkewicz said the city’s legal counsel already discussed the matter and knows of no wrongful conduct by any current or former Northampton official or employee or by any business.

Amherst Economic Development Director Geoff Kravitz said Amherst has five host community agreements for medical sales, five for adult use and one for a micro grower and Tier 1 cultivator.

Previously, Kravitz said the terms mirror those in Northampton and Easthampton, calling for a community-impact fee to be assessed at 3 percent, calculated as the gross revenue from marijuana and marijuana product sales, and a requirement of no less than $20,000 in donations to local marijuana education and prevention programs, overseen by a nonprofit agreed to by the town manager.

It’s uncertain whether Hadley, which has a host community agreement with one adult-use and medical marijuana company known as the Heirloom Collective, received a subpoena. Town Administrator David Nixon said no document was received from the U.S. attorney’s office.

“We have not, to the best of my knowledge,” Nixon said.

Hatfield has signed host community agreements with two companies that are not yet operational: Urban Grown, which recently withdrew its request for a cannabis growing facility, and Treeworks, a cannabis manufacturing and processing facility that has not gotten its final approvals from the state.

But Town Administrator Marlene Michonski said no subpoena has been sent to Hatfield officials.

“We have not received a public records request,” Michonski said.

Officials in Belchertown, where three marijuana-related companies are in the process of starting up, did not respond to inquiries Wednesday from the Gazette.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com. Staff Writer Dusty Christensen contributed to this report.