An internal audit of how the City of Springfield chooses who can sue a marijuana business venture found the process to be “healthy” and “fair,” but some changes were recommended.
An audit that examined how the city of Springfield in 2019 and again this year screened and selected candidates to negotiate deals with the host community to operate marijuana businesses found clerical errors but nothing incorrect.
“The city’s selection process was solid, objective and fair,” said auditor Yong No.
He said mistakes were made when adding up the scores given to candidates by a review board, potentially costing a company a chance to progress through the selection process.
“This is a manual process and like any manual process, it is prone to errors,” Yong said at a recent city council audit committee meeting.
“It’s unfortunate that this happened, but from what we can tell it was just a clerical error,” he said.
The audit did not identify the companies affected by the error.
Earlier this year, 24 companies filed an application when the city opened a second tender for marijuana companies. A nine-member advisory committee reviewed the nominations, ranked them and forwarded the findings to Mayor Domenic Sarno. He selected six retail businesses, a culture company and two transport companies to negotiate deals with the host community.
After a lawyer for a competing grow company complained that the mayor’s choice violated the city’s zoning bylaws for marijuana operations, City Councilor Justin Hurst requested the audit.
However, this issue was not addressed in the audit of No.
Hurst, who frequently criticizes Sarno’s administration and is seen as a potential mayoral candidate in 2023, said he plans to ask the state attorney general and the Cannabis Control Commission to investigate further. before.
“It is clear to me from the audit that there have been errors that potentially cost individuals millions of dollars by not being able to operate in the city of Springfield and to me this is problematic,” he said. Hurst said in an interview with WAMC News.
He said he disagreed with the auditor’s conclusion that the city’s process is healthy and fair.
“I think it’s important that people have a fair process and if it isn’t we have to question it, which I will do,” said Hurst.
One of the findings of the audit is that documents from the review of commercial marijuana applications in 2019 are missing. In response, city attorney Ed Pikula said a checklist will be established to ensure all records are kept in the future.
“There is always room for improvement and this is clearly an area we need to improve,” said Pikula. “These records matter regardless of the outcome and we have to do a better job.”
The audit also found that a marijuana haulage company selected by the mayor is not in compliance with the city’s marijuana zoning ordinance. Pikula said the company operates a “dispatch office” and does not keep marijuana on the premises, so the city’s zoning law should not apply there.
“That part of the order was unenforceable against this plaintiff, it’s that simple,” Pikula said.
The recreational marijuana industry has been slow to make inroads in Springfield since the first legal sales took place in Massachusetts over three years ago.
Only two cannabis stores have opened in Springfield. In Northampton, a town with around one-fifth of Springfield’s population, there are now eight recreational marijuana retailers.