HAVERHILL — Amid a federal probe of agreements between Massachusetts communities and pot shops, officials in Haverhill, which has three such contracts and possibly more coming, refuse to say whether they've been asked to turn over any documents.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling's office is leading the investigation, which has triggered grand jury subpoenas to dozens of communities for the agreements and any communication between local leaders and businesses owners that were part of the negotiations.
The probe was triggered by the indictment of Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia on charges that he extorted nearly $600,000 from pot shop owners in his city.
A spokesman for Lelling said the office neither confirms nor denies investigations. Haverhill city Solicitor William Cox said he is aware of media reports concerning host community agreements but cannot confirm or deny the receipt a subpoena for those records.
Officials in other Massachusetts communities with retail marijuana shops have acknowledged that they received subpoenas, which appear to be part of a broad effort to gather information.
The host community agreement is a crucial piece of any marijuana retailer's process of opening up shop. The contract between the city and a proprietor lays out what the business offers in exchange for being allowed to operate. The contract is also a key piece of the application to obtain a license from the state's Cannabis Control Commission.
Mayor James Fiorentini's office did provide The Eagle-Tribune with copies of three host community agreements that have already been negotiated with owners of three planned retail marijuana shops in the city.
The contracts are relatively standard agreements and call for the same kinds of payments, reimbursements and community service from each pot shop.
A fourth shop, which a group called Mellow Fellows plans to open at the site of the former Seafood Etc. on Amesbury Road, is still under negotiation.
It is possible that two additional shops could open in Haverhill, as allowed by state law. The city is required to provide "reasonable opportunity" to a minimum of six retail marijuana shops -- a number tied to the number of liquor licenses allowed in the city.
The law applies to Haverhill, in this case, because 55 percent of local voters favored allowing retail marijuana shops statewide in the November 2016 state election. The local vote meant the City Council lost its authority to impose a local moratorium on pot shops, as Methuen and Lawrence have.
Haverhill currently has a signed, host community agreement with Robert DeFazio, a service-disabled U.S. Navy veteran from Amesbury who plans to open a shop called CNA Stores in a small business plaza at 558 River St.
Agreements are also in place for Janet Kupris, CEO of Full Harvest Moonz, planned for 101 Plaistow Road, the site of the former Jimmy K's restaurant, and Caroline Pineau, who plans to open Haverhill Stem LLC at the site of the former Sons of Italy at 124 Washington St.
Under these agreements, the owners of these shops agree to make annual payments of 3% of their gross sales to the city as a community impact fee, for a period of five years. Additionally, the city stands to receive 3% of gross sales in taxes.
Although the agreements note say the city shall use payments in its discretion, the agreements say it must make a good faith effort to allocate payments to offset costs related to infrastructure, law enforcement, fire protection, inspecitonal services, public health, addiction services, permitting, consulting services and any unforeseen impacts on the city from the shops.
The City Council has asked the mayor to set aside marijuana revenues specifically for programs such as law enforcement and addiction services, but in a recent letter to the council, the mayor said he opposes earmarking funds and prefers to set up budget line items for marijuana revenue.
"Only the City Council can approve an expenditure, and this would give the council total control over those funds," he said in his letter.
A second major requirement in the host community agreements calls for an additional payment of $25,000 to be made to a charity chosen by the city.
Beyond the host community agreements, the City Council negotiated additional donations. DiFazio agreed to donate $22,000 per year, to be used under the direction of the School Department, for the city’s annual youth risk survey, drug education or another effort deemed important to the city’s youth. Kupris agreed to a similar charitable donation.
The owners of Mellow Fellows voluntarily offered a similar donation during their request for a special permit, which the council granted on Aug. 20.
Retail marijuana shops must also provide no less than 100 hours per year of community service activities in, for example, city sponsored public health awareness programs, drug abuse prevention programs, senior assistance, community clean-ups or veterans assistance.