Rochester Ready to Introduce Marijuana Regs

The Rochester Planning Board on March 12 finalized its draft of a new bylaw to regulate recreational adult-use cannabis establishments and voted to send it off to the Board of Selectmen, who will then send the bylaw back to the Planning Board to hold a public hearing ahead of the Annual Town Meeting.

            Board member Ben Bailey had a concern during the last meeting as he advocated in favor of allowing licensed growers to cultivate cannabis outdoors rather than strictly indoors. Town Counsel Blair Bailey was able to clarify the matter for Bailey, saying that licensed cannabis cultivators actually prefer growing indoors for several reasons.

            For instance, Town Counsel Bailey said, although the Town of Rochester could allow growing outdoors, state regulations require very strict security measures – adequate lighting, and cameras angled around the entire perimeter of the 100,000 square-foot canopy allowed by law, which must be fully encased by, if not walls, then fencing.

            “And a 2-acre fence lit at night … wouldn’t look too good from the road,” Attorney Bailey said.

            Furthermore, cannabis on average requires a 120-day cultivation period, which means only one growing season in these parts of New England. Growing indoors ensures multiple crops each year.

            Hemp, on the other hand, can be grown outdoors under agricultural use, unlike cannabis. Hemp is a variety of cannabis sativa that produces the cannabinoid Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in small amounts (0.3 percent THC) and is used to manufacture paper, clothing, rope, and other industrial products. The cannabis used for recreational consumption – cannabis sativa and cannabis indica – produce the higher levels of THC.

            This bylaw regulating licensed adult-use marijuana establishments applies only to the latter.

            The board also approved forwarding the Smart Growth Zoning Overlay District bylaw article to the Board of Selectmen, who will then send the matter back to the Planning Board in order to hold a public hearing before the bylaw is placed on the Annual Town Meeting warrant.

            The Smart Growth Overlay District will accommodate the 40R housing development proposed for Rochester Crossroads at Routes 58 and 28.

            In other matters, the board delayed a vote on the Site Plan Review approval for 15 Cranberry Highway, LLC for its plan to renovate the existing building to accommodate a new daycare facility.

            The board would prefer to add in specific language prohibiting the removal of soil from the site as another developer in town has done through a loophole it found in the bylaw. The language will specify that no refuse or rubble piles may be removed without Planning Board approval, and that no soil can be removed without approval from the Soil Board.

            The town planner will return with an updated draft decision for the next meeting.

            The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board is scheduled for March 26 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

Rochester Planning Board

By Jean Perry

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