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Cambridge Appeals Ruling Halting Two-Year Moratorium on Some Recreational Marijuana Sales

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The City of Cambridge filed an emergency motion appealing a court ruling that lifted the city’s two-year moratorium on certain cannabis sales permits, according to a city announcement Friday.

Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Kathleen M. McCarthy ruled last month that a moratorium passed by the Cambridge City Council giving “economic empowerment” applicants a two-year window to be the only recreational marijuana sellers in the city was illegal.

Economic empowerment applicants are businesses that receive recreational marijuana licenses from the state via a program that aims to help groups disproportionately impacted by past drug policies.

Revolutionary Clinics — a recreational marijuana seller — filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban in October. Keith W. Cooper ’83, the company’s CEO, claimed in an October affidavit that the moratorium would cost Revolutionary Clinics “upwards of $700,000 in profits per month at each of its Cambridge stores.”

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In a response filed Wednesday afternoon, Revolutionary Clinics alleged the city’s appeal will “irreparably harm” the company’s interests.

“Cambridge now, on an emergency basis no less, seeks the ability to disregard this Court’s Decision and continue to enforce an illegal law for years while it pursues appeals before both the Single Justice and full panel of the Appeals Court, knowing that doing so would irreparably harm Plaintiff and undermine the public interest,” the filing reads.

As it awaits a ruling on the appeal, Cambridge will not agree to new contracts with recreational pot companies, according to the city’s statement.

Despite statewide efforts, the vast majority of recreational marijuana licenses have been given to business owners not part of the Massachusetts’s social equity program.

Western Front, an economic empowerment business that is replacing Central Kitchen in Central Square, is hoping to open its doors in the next five months. Western Front was co-founded by Dennis A. Benzan, the former vice-mayor of Cambridge.

Sumbul Siddiqui – who now serves as Cambridge’s mayor – told The Crimson in June that the moratorium is intended to give a “head start” to local businesses.

Massachusetts legalized recreational marijuana in 2016 via a ballot referendum. The Cambridge City Council passed legislation last fall that approved the sale of recreational marijuana in the city. City Councilors Quinton Zondervan and Siddiqui added the amendment providing a two-year exclusivity period for economic empowerment applicants.

—Staff writer Jasper G. Goodman can be reached at jasper.goodman@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Goodman.

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