The Massachusetts Appeals Court has vacated a preliminary injunction issued in January by a Superior Court judge to prevent the City of Cambridge from enforcing an ordinance that delays medical cannabis facilities (“MTCs”) from converting to adult-use facilities.  The Appeals Court’s order in Revolution Clinics II, Inc. v. City of Cambridge was issued by a single justice on April 24, 2020, and reverses the Superior Court on narrow grounds.

As we detailed back in January, Revolution Clinics had challenged a Cambridge ordinance that gave Economic Empowerment applicants a two-year exclusivity period to receive cannabis business licenses from the City, arguing that the ordinance conflicted with the Cannabis Control Commission’s regulations.  The Superior Court agreed, reasoning that the ordinance circumvented the CCC’s policy of reviewing Economic Empowerment applicants and existing MTC applications for conversion to adult-use on an alternating basis.

The Appeals Court advanced a different view of the ordinance.  The Court held that the ordinance did not conflict with the CCC’s system of reviewing license applications, and that Revolution Clinics thus did not demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits, which is required to receive a preliminary injunction.  The Court also questioned Revolution Clinics’ showing of an irreparable harm (also required for an injunction), describing the MTC’s evidence of economic harm as “scant.”

Despite this adverse ruling, the Appeals Court left the door open for Revolution Clinics to prevail on remand.  The Court noted that Revolution Clinics had advanced several arguments against the ordinance and that only one of those argument was at issue on appeal.  And, the Court suggested that Revolution Clinics may be able to offer additional evidence of economic harm, particularly in light of the changed circumstances caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

The ultimate outcome of Revolution Clinics II, Inc. v. City of Cambridge thus remains to be seen.  If Revolution Clinics does prevail, the case could be an important victory for existing MTCs that are facing local resistance to selling or producing adult-use cannabis.  We will be monitoring this case closely and will provide updates here.