One hundred and six voters attended the February 12 Special Town Meeting in Mattapoisett, with 102 of them supporting a temporary moratorium on commercial marijuana establishments in the seaside community.
The Special Town Meeting was arranged by the Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen after several Planning Board hearings found that voters had concerns regarding the April 1 launch of state regulations and licensing for the growing, commercial selling, and distribution of marijuana in Massachusetts.
On this night, the voters said ‘yes,’ and the moratorium on both recreational and medical marijuana zoning bylaws easily passed with virtually no comment or controversy.
Town Administrator Michael Gagne explained at the outset that temporary moratorium zoning bylaws lasting until December 31, 2018 would give the town and its governing boards, primarily the Planning Board, time to study and write permanent zoning bylaws, hold public meetings to allow voter input, and to determine if the town wants local regulating bylaws or a full prohibition. Once that process has been completed, Gagne said zoning bylaw article(s) would appear in the Fall Town Meeting warrant.
Also providing critical information during the Special Town Meeting was Town Counsel Katherine Laughman of KP Law who gave a brief presentation that explained to the voters what local zoning bylaws may and may not regulate.
Laughman’s presentation pointed out that cities and towns may institute bylaws that regulate “marijuana cultivation,” “marijuana retail sales,” “marijuana product manufacturing,” “independent testing laboratories,” and any other types of licensed marijuana-related business.
Cities and towns, Laughman explained, that do not zone for a complete prohibition of such businesses but instead impose regulations through local zoning bylaws are prohibited from regulating the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana by persons over 21, home growing for personal use (six plants per adult on a premises, up to 12 plants and 10 ounces for personal use), the give away or transfer of up to one ounce for no remuneration, or the possession and manufacturing of marijuana accessories by persons age 21 to persons 21 and over.
Business models that will be permitted by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission and may be regulated at the local level include craft marijuana cultivator cooperatives, microbusinesses, retail brick and mortar stores, third party transport, and social consumption.
Rising to speak was David Anderson who asked about the number of marijuana establishments Mattapoisett might see in the future. Selectman Tyler Macallister responded, “One.”
Lisa Cardoza asked what residents could do if moratoriums were in place. She wanted to know what the next steps might be and how voters could participate. Macallister said, “There’ll be open meetings … public input … the process will be transparent.” He also thought that the police department and other safety officers would be part of the review process.
Gagne said approximately 80 cities and towns in the commonwealth had voted for moratoriums and the subsequent planning process would be “intense.”
Cardoza asked, “Will we be given studies or have access to research?” Macallister responded, “…In a prefect world, yes, but with a Fall Town Meeting that may be difficult.”
Gagne said, “Issues will have to be acted upon at Fall Town Meeting… The Planning Board will base bylaws on public comment… The community as a whole can also bring zoning bylaws to the Planning Board. We’ll help with that,” said Gagne. “It’s not just vested to the Planning Board … the public can do so also.”
Cecilia Sanders asked if the chief of police would comment on the position of the police department.
Police Chief Mary Lyons rose to take the podium making it clear, “We are not in favor of sales or cultivation. Statistics say it is not healthy for a town.” She urged the voters to pass a moratorium to give the town time to make a fully informed decision. She also reminded the voters that the state issues the permits and collects the revenue much like liquor licensing.
When the vote was taken, Article 1 Recreational Marijuana Establishments Moratorium passed 102 to 4, as did Article 2 Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers.
Mattapoisett Special Town Meeting
By Marilou Newell