Town Fires Up for Marijuana Moratorium

Whether you are in favor of or against a moratorium until December 31, 2018 on the sale of recreational and medical marijuana in Mattapoisett, you need to attend the Special Town Meeting planned for February 12 at 6:30 pm in Old Rochester Regional High School Auditorium.

That was the message delivered by Town Administrator Michael Gagne during the February 6 public hearing held by the Mattapoisett Planning Board.

Among others in the state, Mattapoisett and Marion have planned special town meetings during which voters will be asked to support a moratorium on adult-use marijuana retail establishments until local planning boards can establish zoning bylaws that would limit placement of such establishments. The moratorium acts to slow down the April 1 state launch date that would allow retail establishments to legally sell marijuana after securing licenses and permits until local municipalities could form their own regulations.

In the absence of local zoning bylaws specifically addressing marijuana establishments, the state’s minimum regulations and the town’s own existing zoning bylaws would apply.

Gagne said, “Zoning articles require a two-thirds vote to pass, so people have to turn out for town meeting.”

“The Board of Selectmen is in favor of a moratorium.… It would give the Planning Board time to review zoning options,” said Gagne.

Gagne continued, “We are not prepared with zoning as it currently exists.” He said it is critical that the moratorium be put in place to give the town time to drill down. He said that while federal laws still prohibit such sales, there was no assurance that those regulations would trump individual state laws that allow marijuana sales.

Massachusetts voters in 2012 approved the legalization of medical marijuana and approved the legalization of recreational marijuana use in 2016. Mattapoisett residents rejected in Question 4 the legalization of marijuana by a relatively narrow margin.

“Whether you’re for or against it, we need time to write zoning articles,” Gagne said.

Speaking in favor of a moratorium, Joyce Almedia said, “We need to slow down and dig deep into our moral conscientiousness.” While she said she had no problem with medical marijuana use, she said she was concerned with the wellbeing of the children in the community.

Also speaking in support of the moratorium was Mattapoisett Zoning Board of Appeals member Colby Rottler. Rottler said, “A moratorium is very important,” adding that he believes, because it would be a cash-only business, it could increase criminal activity. “A zoning requirement should be reviewed carefully.… We need time to think about this.”

Gagne said that any new zoning bylaws regulating marijuana establishments in Mattapoisett that might be written during a moratorium could then be presented during the Fall Town Meeting. He said new zoning bylaws could contain anything from a total prohibition to regulations on where such establishments might be located and hours of operation.

Towns like Mattapoisett that voted ‘no’ on recreational marijuana could ban adult-use marijuana establishments through zoning bylaws, but towns like Marion that voted ‘yes’ would have to seek the ban first through a town meeting vote and then a subsequent town-wide ballot vote.

The Planning Board moved to support the two moratorium articles, clearing the way for presentation of the warrant at the Special Town Meeting.

The Mattapoisett Council on Aging can arrange pick up and drop off service for any voters needing a ride to the Special Town Meeting. Call the selectmen’s office at 508-758-4100 ext. 4 to sign up.

In other business on this night, Paul Valiquette, 49 Long Plain Road, sought and received approval for a Form A – approval not required application for the subdivision of his 15-acre parcel into two lots. Also coming before the Planning Board, David McIntire’s request for acceptance of a performance bond and release of seven lots in the Shagbark neighborhood of the Bay Club development was also approved.

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for March 5 at 7:00 pm in the town hall conference room.

Mattapoisett Planning Board

By Marilou Newell


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