Town Meeting voters approve medical marijuana regulation

Nov 26, 2018

MATTAPOISETT — Dealing another blow to pot establishments, Town Meeting voters Monday passed a bylaw regulating medical marijuana shops — only after adding an absolute ban in the spring on in-town sales of recreational marijuana.

After all of the items passed on Monday, zoning bylaw changes regarding medical marijuana prompted the most debate. The proposal was brought before Town Meeting by the Planning Board in an effort to regulate the locations of future shops. 

The bylaw changes would restrict medical marijuana stores to the Limited Industry Zoning District, which is located in the industrial park. Any projects would still need Planning Board approval and to enter into a host agreement that would include fees paid to the town. 

Without the proposal, medical marijuana shops could establish themselves anywhere in town at the start of the new year but the article provides conditions and controls for regulation.

The proposal was passed only after voters amended it to ensure recreational marijuana facilities are banned, solidifying legislation passed at the last spring Town Meeting. 

Mattapoisett resident Donald Fleming expressed concerns that the changes would be sufficient for the regulation of marijuana shops. 

Fleming proposed three amendments to the bylaw which included adding language to prohibit recreational shops in the future, required operating agreements and disclosure of all business investors. 

“I am personally adverse to the distribution of marijuana, I think it’s just going to cause problems,” Fleming said.

The first amendment — restating the ban on recreational marijuana — passed narrowly, with town voters splitting 54-49 in favor of the addition. 

Town Counsel Jonathan Silverstein told voters that state legislation suggests the existing ban on recreational marijuana prevents the Cannabis Control Commission from granting such a license.

The 2016 marijuana legalization state law allows towns to hold referendums to ban marijuana shops only if the majority of residents voted against them. In Mattapoisett, 51 percent of voters gave a “no” vote on the ballot question, giving the town the power to block recreational sales. 

Fleming said that the additional changes are precautions to assess potential marijuana businesses.  “We’re going to know who’s investing. Is this gambling money coming in? Is it money that you’re a little concerned about?”

A “no” vote came on both proposals after voters expressed concern that the amendments were to restrictive for medical marijuana shops.

“I don’t see any reason why we should have a stricter requirement than the state regulation,” said Arthur Layton. He added that this one type of business should not be penalized and targeted. 

“A few years from now, recreational and medical marijuana shops will be as common as Dunkin Donuts,” said Don Cuddy. “If anybody hasn’t noticed, Pablo Escobar is now in custody so the Columbian cartels won’t be targeting Mattapoisett any time soon.”

Voters ultimately adopted the medical marijuana shop regulations with the one amendment restating the recreational ban on pot.