After originally concluding a debate on enacting a provision that would cap the number of cannabis retail locations to 11, Fall River City Council Vice President Pam Laliberte-Lebeau asked to consider, switching her vote from a ‘No’ to a ‘Yes.’
The matter was then sent onto a second reading and enrollment later this Summer, with an opportunity to further amend the provision.
Council members debated the merits of cannabis sales on future municipal budgets and whether or not Corporation Counsel Joseph Macy.
"I don't think this is particularly important to anybody but myself but I just want to make the record clear,” Macy said. “I was not asked for an opinion prior to this meeting. Had I been asked formally for a written opinion I would have provided it."
In the midst of the debate, a discussion over revenue between Council Member Shawn Cadime and City Administrator Cathy Ann Viveiros erupted.
Cadime asked Viveiros a question about revenue coming in from Northeast Alternatives as the only recreational cannabis seller in the city.
"We have been very conservative in our estimate,” Viveiros replied. “There will be, for the foreseeable future, a revenue source from cannabis sales. I don't know how much projected revenues will grow. We don't know what that trajectory will be but I question that it will go below."
This debate sparked an engagement between the two over the end of the Pay-As-You-Throw Era.
"So, what happened was you eliminated the purple bags without the marijuana revenue coming in,” Cadime said. “When it did come in, it saved the budget.”
“It helped to supplant what the issue was - you did it without the marijuana companies. You were getting rid of the purple bags regardless of what was happening with no care whatsoever on the impact on the financial specifics."
"Well, that's not true councilor," Viveiros responded.
"It's absolutely true," he interjected.
Viveiros countered. "It absolutely is not. We would not have taken action if we couldn't have maintained a balanced budget.”
Cadime claimed the administration got rid of purple bags without anticipating what type of revenue cannabis would bring in.
"You did it without knowing that would take place,” he told Viveiros. “You eliminated it before even submitting any type of financial forecasting to this city council."
Councilor Steve Camara gave his thoughts and told his fellow members the process should be able to play out over time.
"Let the market prevail,” he said. “This is a revenue-producing operation for the City of Fall River. It is not causing any difficulty anywhere. It's actually putting Fall River in a good light."
In response, Council Member Cadime spoke on other issues motivating his reasoning for some type of cap on cannabis retailers.
"I think something that we are aware of but ignore is the money being given to the administration by these marijuana companies for the licenses and the kickback they're receiving in order to issue these licenses,” he said. “This is an issue”
Cadime told council this has been ignored in the continuous cannabis conversation.
“The only way for us to put a stop to it is to put a cap on the number of licenses that we have,” he said. “It's an unfortunate situation but it's the reality of the situation. We can continue to turn a blind eye but sooner or later we'll start to see additional charges come down on individuals receiving money for these licenses.”
He continued. “We'll all be sitting here saying we should have put a cap on it to eliminate the exposure. To say that there is no issues is a lie at this point or misleading the public."
Council Member Stephen Long doubts the demand will even be there for nearly a dozen retailers.
"I find it hard to believe that we'll even have 11 licenses in the City of Fall River,” he said. “I think we're well within a reasonable range. If, in the next two or six months all 11 licenses get granted, then maybe we should take a second look and say maybe we need more but as of now I find it hard to believe."
The second reading and enrollment of a potential cap of 11 locations could happen in council later this Summer.