Proposed marijuana bylaw amendment intended to protect Marion youth

Oct 8, 2018

MARION — On Monday, Oct. 22, Marion residents will be asked to vote on a Town Meeting warrant article with proposed amendments to the current bylaws concerning adult-use marijuana establishments.

The largest change to the bylaws is an article that clarifies terminology, establishes eligible locations, sets up a procedure to license facilities, and outlines the conditions in which these specially permitted businesses may operate.

Under the terms of the zoning code, which was established by the Planning Board in August, recreational marijuana facilities can operate only in industrial areas, with approval from the Planning Board. The Planning Board followed all the necessary steps in drafting the bylaw and held a public hearing on the issue on Sept. 17.

The code specifies that consumers for recreational marijuana must be 21. To prevent minors from gaining access to marijuana, these facilities cannot be close to residential areas, schools, daycare centers, playgrounds or any religious facilities that may educate children. This effectively limits recreational marijuana facilities to the Sippican Industrial park.

In addition to the location restrictions, marijuana establishments must also enter into a binding agreement with the Marion Board of Selectmen. The agreement will include a fee to be paid to the town, among other things. 

Establishments will also be restricted in how they are allowed to advertise. The advertising standards for the town are taken from the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, which specifies that any advertisement by these facilities must be written and located in places where 85 percent of the audience will be over the age of 21.

Advertisements must display health warnings, and cannot use images of marijuana unless they are provided by the Cannabis Control Commission. Advertisements also cannot feature people younger than 21 or use cartoon characters that may appeal to children.

Recreational marijuana facilities cannot sell alcohol or tobacco products, and cannot be self-service facilities or have vending machines for their products. The Zoning Board of Appeals also has the power to set the business’ hours.

In order to secure a permit for a recreational marijuana business, owners must show all licenses and permits, get the property owner to agree if they are leasing the property, outline how they plan to comply with requirements, and have a community agreement with the Board of Selectmen.

The code is also laid out so that even if one section of the bylaw is invalidated, all of the other sections can still be enforced.

The Marion Board of Health passed a similar but slightly different set of regulations in May to ensure that marijuana establishments do not pose a public health concern.  The regulations permit the Board to require an annual Marijuana operating permit and a Marijuana Agent permit from vendors, perform random inspections of marijuana establishments three times a year, make sure that all edible marijuana products and facilities comply with manufacturing practices and sanitation standards, and require that the businesses distribute educational materials. 

In an initial planning hearing, Henry Mauro expressed concern about the presence of any marijuana establishments in Marion and stated that he planned to start a petition against the businesses. However he must wait until after the bylaw passes to include a citizen’s petition about the issue.