By Wayne Hayward, Fairhaven Planning Board Chair
In response to recent reporting on Fairhaven marijuana bylaws, I offer my personal experiences. First, I attribute any past confusion of the town to constantly fluctuating state regulations.
At the February 12, 2018 Board of Selectmen meeting, town counsel drafted nine possible questions to appear on the April 02 ballot, to gauge the sentiment of town residents on universal prohibition, targeted prohibition or a compromised approach to numbers of establishments.
I convinced them that without a town planner and the narrow time to process zoning bylaws, it could be risky. We agreed not to proceed with the zoning bylaw or ballot questions, but instead prepare for the fall of 2018.
The moratorium zoning bylaw in place expires Dec 31, 2018.
I attended the Selectmen meeting of August 13, not to represent a Fairhaven Planning Board position without the other members, but to formerly inquire of Selectmen their official intent on placing their nine February 12 discussed ballot questions. After the usual cannabis confusion, the members indicated they were not including any ballot questions attached to the Nov 06 election or a special election.
The August 14, 2018 Planning Board meeting was meaningful discussion. I see nothing wrong with debate between eight elected officials and staff in front of live cameras. At this meeting, some didn’t feel I presented my larger discussions, as the board started the evening, paragraph by paragraph, correcting typos and smaller issues on the draft instead.
The meeting of August 28th, I was allowed to point out a discrepancy in allowing retail sales in the town’s business zone using the zoning map to indicate that no single business lot in town could actually comply with the 500 foot setback, with the exception of Long Island.
This could be a challengeable bylaw. If you zone for a new use, you must actually provide the land mass for the use to occur. The draft language was then altered by the members and the entire business zone use was reclassified and proposed setbacks were removed from the bylaw.
Marijuana state ballot votes to date: 2008 — Decriminalized to misdemeanor; 2012 — Legalized Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers; 2016 Question 4 — Legalized personal possession of recreational marijuana.
The larger aspects concerning cannabis are settled by ballot voting. It will continue to be the case, as consumption establishments and home delivery uses appear on future ballots. It might be the case, but not clear to me if a town can prevent marijuana ballot initiatives or is it in control of anyone obtaining 875 voter signatures to place on a ballot in Fairhaven.
The voters in Acushnet, Rochester, Marion, Westport, and Freetown voted narrowly in favor of Question 4. Since then however, new votes in these towns have passed prohibitions or new extended moratoriums.
Mattapoisett and Lakeville voted negative and have retail bans. The towns, who recently voted to prohibit, by the end of 2019, will be required to poll voters again.
Wareham, New Bedford, and Dartmouth voters approved Question 4 and now have bylaws appearing in place. Fairhaven voted 55.1%–44.9% in favor and is ready to present a zoning bylaw on October 09, 2018. Other departments are finalizing their procedures. I believe it is as restricted as possible without further ballot vote restrictions, three retail stores.
Comparisons of future recreational sales to the current medical marijuana sold are troubling to me. The current location on Alden Rd would not be expected to generate problems after it was properly sited, regulated and dispensed by prescription, along with onsite assistance treating your ailment.
In a March 2017 letter from Harvard University scientists to the Governor of Colorado, the alarming spike in rates of marijuana auto fatalities, poison control calls, emergency room visits and public school issues positively attributable to high potency “recreational” marijuana, were mentioned. I wonder if half the residents in Massachusetts still consider their expert cautions or are they swayed by overwhelming advertising from industry advocates such as Denver based AmeriCann, Inc.
The product of medical grade inhaled marijuana might be distinctly different from “recreational” marijuana. Medical cannabis is very high in CBD (the highly documented therapeutic effect) verses low THC (get stoned effect). Recreational marijuana is predominantly the opposite, extremely high in THC and low in CBD. The “recreational” seeds being grown today are upwards of 34% THC content.
If trends continue, states may try to regulate maximum THC. Similar comparison to home distillation of moonshine is also legal on your personal property in Massachusetts and you may manufacture and share with others, just like marijuana laws. I personally would not vote to allow “recreational moonshine” to be sold at methanol strength in Fairhaven retail outlets, regardless of what you call it.
Hopefully cannabis distributors will not pose a toxicity problem when regulated by the Cannabis Control Commission.
The fact of organizations that came out strongly against Question 4 in 2016 were the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, Massachusetts Hospital Association, Massachusetts Sheriffs Association, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, Retailers Association of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Municipal Association, Conference of Teaching Hospitals, Massachusetts Medical Society, Construction Industries of Massachusetts, National Association of Mental Illness, Governor Baker, Mayor of Boston, and the Attorney General of Massachusetts. Are all these entities possibly old fuddy-duddies, merely unwilling to accept change?
I think they have credible points, we should remember as we move forward.
I hope we proceed with caution and provide for the smallest number of establishments as possible in the near future. The suggestion to the Planning Board of placing an additional warrant article to extend the current moratorium from December 31, 2018 to June 30, 2019 was not an attempt to delay in this case, but to merely provide a cautionary fallback position for the November 13, 2018 Town Meeting, if the bylaw does not receive the required super majority vote. A simple motion to “pass over” would occur otherwise.
I am uneasy about it and I am sure other Planning Board members are as well, but the bylaw presented, following the public hearing, will be your only option to regulate marijuana establishments.
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