polo caps Selectmen consider risk of retail pot shops
NORTH ANDOVER North Andover town counsel Suzanne Egan warned at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting that the current moratorium in place for recreational marijuana may not protect the town against retail establishments setting up shop.
“Towns that want to prohibit certain marijuana establishments should do so prior to April 1, 2018 because there is a slight risk the Cannabis Control Commission may grant a license to a marijuana establishment in a town in spite of the fact the town has adopted a zoning moratorium,” she advised selectmen last week, reciting information she received from Margaret Hurley, head of municipal lawunitof the Attorney General’s office.
“She is not directing towns to go to Special Town Meeting to adopt this, but she’s saying she’s looking at reading this statute in a very, very conservative manner,” said Egan.
Hurley raised a potential risk thatapplicants could be granted a license from the state andappeal the town’s zoning moratoriums given that they have no bylaw in place prohibiting commercial marijuana uses.
“Without knowing what the CCC will do, we just don’t know what will happen, and there’s that potential it could be appealed through the court system,” Egan said, reiterating the advice given to her by Hurley.
Applications for retail licenses will be accepted beginning April 1, 2018,thus creating a potential six week window of risk, according to Hurley,
before North Andover could vote on a prohibitive bylaw at Annual Town Meeting in May.
Hurley has not put this advice in writing in the form of a legal recommendation, but has been publicly giving it in forums and to municipalities who call her office.
North Andover voters rejected the November ballot question that legalized recreational marijuana in the state, and approved a moratorium on marijuana establishments at the Annual Town Meeting in May.
Over the summer, Gov. Charlie Baker wrote changes into the recreational marijuana law which allow local governing boards in municipalities that rejected the referendum to ban commercial marijuana in their towns.
The vote will guide town officials in their process of crafting a general bylaw and zoning ordinance relating to marijuana use.
The timeline for that prohibitive bylaw adoption is up in the air: The town will either put it to a Special Town Meeting or Annual Town Meeting warrant. Selectmen began this discussion Monday.
The day afterMonday’s selectmen meeting, two citizen petition articles were filed to prohibit allnon medical marijuana use in town.
The petitions were submitted with a letter from a group calling themselves Citizens for a Drug Free North Andover, and included signatures from former selectman Wendy Wakeman; Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance board member Paul Craney; and current selectman Rosemary Smedile.
Town clerk Joyce Bradshaw said the petitions include enough signatures to be included on either an Annual Town Meeting or a Special Town Meeting warrant.
“North Andover voters have twice chosen to keep our town marijuana free,” the letter reads. “The proposed bylaw change and zoning ordinance would codify that choice, and keep smoke shops, grow factories, and other drug businesses out of town.”
Selectmen will continue their discussion at the next meeting.
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