Planning Board, residents show support for pot moratorium

Feb 6, 2018

Marion's Planning Board has endorsed an agenda item at Marion's Feb. 15 Special Town Meeting that will allow for a moratorium on marijuana sales until December 31.

December 31is the last day that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy has said the state will accept a moratorium.

Marion currently does not have any zoning bylaws in place for marijuana sales establishments. The state has indicated that interested applicants can apply for a marijuana sales license beginning on April 1. If Marion does not adopt a moratorium, technically, marijuana can be sold in any area zoned as "limited industrial."

On Feb. 5, at Marion's public hearing on the moratorium, Planning Board Chair Eileen Marum said that she was fully behind a moratorium on marijuana sales. The state is expected to publish marijuana sales regulations on March 15, she explained, but the Town of Marion will still need time to study those regulations and put in plan the best possible solution for the safety and interests of Marion residents.

There were few resident comments on the moratorium, despite a relatively full audience. Marion Board of Health Chair Jason Reynolds backed the moratorium plan, saying, "We have to think about where these establishments will be placed, and their distance from places like schools. We need the time for a thoughtful approach, which a moratorium will allow."

Resident Ted North joked, "I love pot! It hasn't changed since Woodstock." Audience (and Planning Board) members broke out in laughter.

North asked the board how marijuana could be regulated if it was grown as a personal agricultural crop, which he noted may not be subject to Planning Board regulations, and could technically be grown in any area.

"The rule is six plants per person," Marum told him. "Six for you and six for your wife, so twelve altogether I suppose."

Planning Board members noted that the moratorium vote is not an approval or disapproval of the sale of marijuana itself. But, explained Cheryl Sbarra, senior attorney for the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards, since the town voted to "yes" to legalizing marijuana, a two-pronged approach would be needed to deny sales altogether. Denying marijuana altogether would require the proposal to be accepted at Town Meeting and on a town ballot.

When questioned as to why the moratorium didn't simply extend to the date of Marion's fall town meeting, Marum explained that she is hoping to have all regulations ready and set for a town vote at that time. The moratorium, she said, can end early if all regulations are ready and town residents agree. The December 31 expiration date, she added, was a "comfortable cushion," in case the town can't get all regulations finished in time for the town meeting.