On April 1, 2018, businesses may begin to apply for licenses to operate recreational marijuana establishments in cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth. On November 20, 2017, a mere six months from that date, the Mattapoisett Planning Board along with Police Chief Mary Lyons, Public Health Nurse Amanda Stone, and Town Administrator Michael Gagne, as well as members of the community heard the straight news – time is running out for local regulation of recreational marijuana.
Katherine Laughman, an attorney with Kopelman and Paige, the town’s legal counsel, gave an in-depth presentation on the current state regulatory processes of medical marijuana and more importantly, what cities and towns can expect of statewide regulations after the April 1, 2018 roll out.
If cities and towns do not have bylaws in place by then, their right to regulate recreational marijuana activities at the local level will have gone up in smoke.
Laughman explained that zoning bylaws may be implemented along with prohibition(s), but such rules would require a town meeting vote. With Mattapoisett’s Fall Special Town Meeting scheduled for Monday, November 28, Laughman suggested holding another special town meeting after the first of the year solely asking for a moratorium on recreational marijuana business activities.
Lyons advocated for a moratorium, airing her concerns that center around the sale of recreational marijuana, a “cash only business,” making retail establishments prime targets for crime. She said that with the proximity of Interstate 195, criminals would have a quick getaway route. “Nothing’s saying someone isn’t already looking where they can put one near 195,” Lyons said. “They’re going to go where they can.”
During the statewide elections in 2016, Mattapoisett voted ‘No’ on Question 4 that ultimately legalized recreational marijuana use in Massachusetts, but by a very slim margin. Board member Nathan Ketchell pointed out that it was 2,200 opposed, 2,073 in favor.
Planning Board Chairman Tom Tucker said, “If someone was on the fence about whether or not to allow it, hearing from Chief Lyons may tip them towards a moratorium.”
Board members felt that residents who voted for legalization may have only been thinking about personal cultivation and use versus commercial sale, cultivation, and manufacturing within the township. With a public discussion, the board hopes to spark-up the conversation in an effort to determine exactly what the majority in the town wants.
Beyond a short-term moratorium, options as described by Laughman include local bylaws that might ban or place restrictions on “time, place, and manner” of marijuana sales. She said in the absence of local regulations, state requirements would be fully implemented. But with a moratorium in place, the town would have more time to weigh options.
Gagne said a panel that included the Board of Health, Board of Selectmen, public health nurse, and Police and Fire Department representatives was important to helping residents understand the full implications of recreational marijuana sales.
“The town has a character, an image,” said Gagne, noting that the intensity and scale of what might come into the town could be problematic.
The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, December 4, at 7:00 pm with the venue to be announced. The public is urged to attend and participate in this critical conversation.
“If it’s important to them, they will come,” said Tucker, as some wondered if the holiday timing might impede community participation.
Other business handled on this night was a vote by the Planning Board to support acceptance of parts of Reservation Road and Goodspeed Island Road for Phase 1B of the Mattapoisett multi-use recreational path, a.k.a. bike path, for improvements mandated by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and Perkins Lane off Harbor Road for a sewer easement.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for December 4 at 7:00 pm at a venue to be announced.
Mattapoisett Planning Board
By Marilou Newell