2017-12-07 / Front Page

Council set to decide marijuana regulations

Commercial uses is topic of Monday’s public hearing
BY TIM RIEL

A public hearing before the town councilors is scheduled Monday to determine if the commercialization of marijuana should be banned by the town’s zoning ordinance.

With the tolerance for recreational marijuana blossoming across the country, including voter approval in Massachusetts during the 2016 general election, Town Planner Lisa Bryer said she wanted to stay ahead of the issue by establishing guidelines.

According to the draft, commercial and retail marijuana will be restricted throughout town, including growing, processing, cultivating, testing and selling the drug. That does not, however, affect personal growers or caretakers licensed by the state. If approved, a section will be added to the zoning code identifying marijuana as a land use.

The measure was forwarded by the planning commission, which recommended the ordinance to protect the character of the community and the “health, safety and welfare of its citizens.”

The planning board met four times in August and September to consider regulations following a six-month moratorium imposed by the councilors in June. The town decided on the temporary freeze because of the mounting support nationwide for legalized marijuana. That moratorium ends Dec. 16.

While the state’s so-called Medical Marijuana Act establishes a framework for commercial growers, it also requires them to comply with local ordinances. According to state law, growers only will be licensed after they “provide evidence of compliance with the local zoning laws for each physical address to be utilized as a compassion center or for the secure cultivation of medical marijuana.”

Currently, marijuana is not mentioned in the town’s zoning code. Although Bryer said some uses are “assumed prohibited,” she doesn’t want any ambiguity concerning the regulations on agriculture, which is allowed in every district.

During the planning commission’s debate, Police Chief Ed Mello testified at length about the drawbacks of commercialized marijuana. Among his concerns, he said these growing operations have a history of associated crime and violence with them. Mello also is worried that easily accessible marijuana will pave the way for more impaired drivers.

“I literally have lost count of the number of people I have seen killed due to alcohol-related crashes,” he said. “If marijuana takes the same path, it is likely we will compound these dangers.”

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