Rochester Planning Board backs extended marijuana moratorium

May 9, 2018

Rochester's Planning Board has agreed to back an item on the town's Town Meeting agenda that will extend the town's moratorium sales of marijuana, or applications for marijuana-related businesses, until June of 2019.

The town's current moratorium was intended to block  non-medical marijuana establishments and businesses, including growers and sellers, from applying for a retail license before the state returned with regulations on marijuana sales and zoning.

The sale of recreational marijuana was made legal in Massachusetts in 2016, but the town is seeking more time to draft and establish zoning bylaws for marijuana establishments. The state has only recently begun handing down regulations; although retail stores and cultivation businesses can now apply for licenses (in towns that do not have a moratorium), no applications can be approved before June 1. The first recreational marijuana-based businesses in Massachusetts are expected to open around July 1.

Selectman Brad Morse explained at the time that the original moratorium was passed that it would be difficult for the town to draft regulations ahead of the state, because there was a strong possibility that the state might create regulations that would clash with anything drawn up by the town government. It would be, he said, a huge headache for both the town goverment, which would likely need to revise several bylaws, and for any businesses who chose to make applications in town.

The current marijuana moratorium is set to expire in December. The bylaw revision, if approved, will instead continue the ban through June of 2019.

There was no discussion on the item when Planning Board Chair Arnie Johnson brought it up to fellow board members on April 8, and the board voted to back the extended moratorium unanimously.