Mattapoisett Planning Board to request Special Town Meeting for marijuana moratorium

Dec 20, 2017

The Mattapoisett Planning Board is moving forward with putting a moratorium on issuing permits to both medical and recreational marijuana establishments.

At Monday night’s meeting, the board voted in favor of asking the Board of Selectmen to hold a Special Town Meeting to have residents vote on the articles.

“It seems to me we’re really not prepared to move forward with a bylaw,” Planning Board member Janice Robbins said.

The decision comes after the Planning Board held a public forum to hear residents’ thoughts on recreational marijuana establishments in town on Dec. 11.

Municipalities are in limbo, as there are currently no state regulations in place for the sale of recreational marijuana, which voters approved at the ballot in November of 2016. Without knowing how the state will regulate the retailers, it’s tough for governments to draft bylaws regarding local sales, Attorney Katherine Laughman explained at the public forum.

Further complicating the situation is a tight timeline. The state has a March 15 deadline to get its regulations in place. On April 1, retailers will be able to apply for licenses to sell marijuana. Without a local bylaw, marijuana establishments could open in any area zoned for retail.

There were residents at the public forum both for and against marijuana establishments in town, but Planning Board Chair Thomas Tucker said at Monday’s meeting he thinks everyone can agree on a moratorium.

“Even people in favor of recreational establishments were still in support of the moratorium until the state gets its act together,” he said.

The moratoriums would run until Dec. 31, 2018 if approved at a Special Town Meeting. This would give town officials the time to draft bylaws dealing with both recreational and medical establishments.

“The time and effort needs to be taken to craft bylaws if we do regulate it,” Robbins said.

Planning Board member Nathan Ketchel suggested also including bylaws on the Special Town Meeting agenda just in case the moratoriums don’t get a 2/3 majority vote. However, Tucker doesn’t think it’ll be necessary.

“I understand where you’re coming from,” Tucker said. “But my gut feeling is a moratorium would pass.”