HAVERHILL — The attorneys representing a local cannabis shop owner have won a $1 million settlement – said to be the first of its kind in the state – in a lawsuit similar to one filed against the city of Haverhill seeking a refund of community impact fees.
In the settlement with Caroline’s Cannabis, the town of Uxbridge, Mass., agreed to refund the vast majority of community impact payments paid by the cannabis company. The $1.17 million settlement represents about 80% of the fees paid.
The settlement was announced by attorneys Thomas MacMillan, of Bradford, along with Kristin Yasenka, of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Nicholas Obolensky, of Providence, Rhode Island.
A similar lawsuit, one from local cannabis operator Stem against the city of Haverhill, is pending in Newburyport Superior Court.
MacMillan and co-counsel Yasenka are also representing Stem owner Caroline Pineau in her suit seeking the return of community impact fees based on the claim those fees were unlawfully assessed and collected.
To date, Pineau has paid the city nearly $900,000 in impact fees, while the city had not received impact fee payments from other cannabis operators in the city.
A judge has scheduled a hearing on Feb. 7 in Newburyport Superior Court to consider a motion for summary judgment regarding key facts, in anticipation of the case gong to trial this spring.
Caroline’s Cannabis in Uxbridge is the first woman-owned cannabis retailer to open in the state and is owned by Caroline Frankel.
In 2022, the Uxbridge business filed a lawsuit in Worcester Superior Court seeking an order requiring Uxbridge officials to produce documentation to substantiate the community impact fee it has been collecting.
In the lawsuit, Caroline’s Cannabis claimed there was no impacts or costs to the town of Uxbridge and, without documentation of costs, the town cannot collect the impact fee. Attorney Blake Mensing, who has negotiated about 100 Host Community Agreements (HCAs) including his own, questions Haverhill’s claim that its use of Stem’s impact fees were “reasonably related” to the operation of Stem.
“Haverhill is the most extreme example I’ve seen, as the city said it hired two full-time police officers with Stem’s money,” he said. “How is that reasonably related? Having represented municipalities, I think the city (of Haverhill) could have ended this by admitting they were wrong but instead made up costs that would be seen as plausible, but hiring two police officers has nothing to do with Stem’s operation.”