November 4, 2016, Massachusetts voters passed legislation authorizing the legalization, regulation, and taxation of recreational cannabis in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts statute allows cities and towns to adopt their own ordinances and zoning bylaws imposing reasonable safeguards on the operation of marijuana establishments. The plaintiffs in a March 7, 2019 case sought a declaration that a general bylaw enacted by their Town, banning all non-medical cannabis uses, was invalid.
The plaintiffs in the case had purchased land in the Town to build an indoor marijuana growing and processing facility shortly after the Massachusetts statute was enacted. In May of 2018, the Town adopted an amendment to its zoning, bylaw by two-thirds vote, allowing certain recreational marijuana uses in agricultural, industrial, and business districts by special permit.
A group of citizens and neighboring property owners, unhappy with the amendment, sought to rescind it through two articles. The first article was another amendment to reverse the bylaw, which failed to obtain the required two-thirds majority vote. The second was a general bylaw to ban all non-medical cannabis uses within the Town, which passed by a majority vote. The plaintiffs filed an action in Land Court, arguing that the second general bylaw was an improper attempt to amend a use that was already regulated in its zoning bylaw.