The Marijuana Bylaw Amendment Back Story

            By the time you read this, Mattapoisett’s Annual Town Meeting will be history. But knowledge is power. To that end, on May 8, the Mattapoisett Planning Board met to provide a public forum for discussion of the proposed zoning bylaw changes that would be presented on May 13 at Town Meeting.

            Two zoning bylaws that deal specifically with restriction on marijuana sale and cultivation were proposed to be modified and would allow cultivation of both medical and recreational marijuana within the town.

            The current bylaws came into local law on January 2019 restricting both the cultivation and sale of recreational marijuana. Now, a local businessman and his partners are pursuing zoning changes that would allow the development of a large industrial marijuana cultivation factory that could distribute both medical and recreational marijuana. And, while the restriction of retail sale of adult-use marijuana would remain in place, those in attendance revisited the whole issue of whether or not marijuana was good for people or represented a danger.

            After detailing the technical language in both Articles 26: Adult Use Marijuana Establishments and Article 27: Adult Use Marijuana Establishment Prohibition, Attorney Phil Silverman introduced himself as the representative for local business man David McIntire.

            Silverman explained how cultivation factories handle security issues saying, “These places are more secure then a bank.” He said that employees would be vetted including background checks.

            Silverman also described how the plants themselves are heavily secured from seed to flower with barcodes and daily weigh-ins to ensure nothing is missing.

            According to Silverman, the building would be thoroughly covered with security cameras from entranceways to exits, secured by an alarm system, have on-site security personnel, and a vault to store finished products. He said the facility operators would work closely with local law enforcement. As for waste by-products those would also be handled in a prescribed manner and hauled offsite by a regulated waste management firm.

            He also mentioned that opening a marijuana cultivation factory for both recreational and medical plants was the only economically viable business; otherwise, it would be a no-go.

            Mattapoisett resident Bill Cantor asked about odor that may emit from the factory. Mark Rochette of Rochette Consulting Services, part of McIntire’s development team, said that odors had been a problem, but, once identified, the addition of carbon filters adequately handled the problem. He said the rooms are sealed to control humidity.

            But time and again throughout the discourse, community members aired their view that marijuana was not proven to have medical benefits, that children might be harmed, and that by allowing marijuana cultivation, Mattapoisett would no longer be “special.”

            “The town would receive a host agreement that could bring in as much as $400,000,” said Town Administrator Michael Gagne. He said that new revenue would not go into the general operating budget and instead would be set aside to help fund future capital projects. He said the selectmen were in favor of the bylaw amendments.

            Planning Board member Karen Field wondered what would happen if marijuana cultivation facilities saturate the marketplace. Silverman said he didn’t believe that would happen, given that Colorado continues to see growth in their marijuana business models.

            Finance Committee member Kevin Geraghty said, “You can already grow marijuana in Mattapoisett. The town (state) already allows private growth. This is just an expansion of that. … This makes sense.”

            It became clear that Planning Board Chairman Tom Tucker was not in favor of supporting the bylaw changes, but when the vote came down to either recommending or not recommending the amendments to voters, the Planning Board by majority voted to recommend.

            Also being supported by the Planning Board were amendments to the zoning bylaw that will allow up to a 70 percent lot coverage from the current 50 percent in the Limited Industrial Zone if lots in question are tied to the public sewer.

            In other business, Eldridge Estates, a subdivision being proposed by Scott Snow, was once again continued until May 20 and the application also received a 45-day extension.

            The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for May 20 a 7:00 pm in the Town Hall conference room.

Mattapoisett Planning Board

Marilou Newell

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