Residents discuss concerns at marijuana bylaw hearing

May 9, 2019

MATTAPOISETT — More than two dozen Mattapoisett residents attended a Planning Board hearing on May 8, most to ask questions and share concerns about a proposed marijuana cultivation facility in the town.

Vicente Sederberg LLC submitted plans for a 25,000 square foot facility that would grow and cultivate medical and recreational marijuana.

The sale of marijuana is still prohibited within the town and the product would be sold elsewhere.

In order for the facility to be built, several changes would need to be made to the bylaws and approved at the May 13 Town Meeting. 

Phil Silverman from Vicente Sederberg LLC came to the hearing to answer questions and concerns.

Mattapoisett resident Kathleen Demello opposes the facility, saying the risks of growing marijuana outweigh the benefits. Demello cited the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine as saying marijuana use will increase the risk of schizophrenia, social anxiety and other forms of psychosis.

Even if the facility is used for cultivation, said Demello, it can open the door for retail sale, something she is opposed to.

Silverman disagreed, saying cultivation in the town doesn’t mean the town will more likely sell marijuana in the future. This, he said, would be an entirely different factor, outside of what the bylaw covers.

“It’s a completely different type of operation so I can’t speak to that, but whatever it might be, people will show up at Town Meeting and they either approve it, or they won’t,” said Silverman, “It doesn’t just open the door or it’s automatic, everybody would have the same right to get involved in that debate.”

Silverman also brought up concerns regarding the security of the facility.

To prevent theft of marijuana plants, Silverman said the building will have high security.There will be 24/7 surveillance cameras throughout the facility and on-site security officers.

Each seedling would have a barcode that will go into an inventory system. The security system would alert the company if the plant goes missing or is tampered with.

They also have a no-tolerance policy for workers who misuse the marijuana grown there.

The company also plans to ban customers and possibly report them to the police if they misused their products.

As a result, there is a low chance their cultivated plants will end up in the black market, said Silverman.

“If you look at a lot of the statistics around the country, crime goes down around these facilities,” said Silverman, “It’s just too difficult to get into this facility and get to the product.”

Mattapoisett resident Bill Cantor raised concerns about the potential odor the facility might emit.

Through research, Cantor said there was a history of people living near marijuana cultivation facilities who complained of their odor.

Planning Board member Karen Field expressed a similar concern, saying there are expensive houses near the proposed facility’s location.

“There were numerous articles where people said they were outside these buildings and [they said] it stinks, it smells,” said Cantor, “And I thought marijuana only smelled when it was burning, so that would be one question.” 

In response, Silverman said the facility is sealed and uses a carbon filtration system so no odors can get out. Silverman said the odor became a problem with cultivation facilities because of poor filtration systems.

Marion resident, Mark Rochette, who owns and operates several marijuana cultivation facilities, said to prevent plant contamination, no fresh air can get in or out of the facility.

“This used to be an enormous problem across the country but technology has gotten a lot better in terms of dealing with it, and I suspect it will continue to get better,” Silverman said. 

The Planning Board voted in support of the facility, with 3 in favor and 2 opposed.

The hearing also included amending articles that temporarily prohibit both recreational and medical marijuana establishments and treatment centers.

The Planning Board voted in favor of amending these articles, with 4 in favor and 1 opposed.

Residents can vote on the marijuana bylaws at the Mattapoisett Town Meeting on May 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Old Rochester Regional High School.