Extended Moratorium is Only Safeguard
The Planning Board met on Nov. 1st and voted NOT to extend the moratorium. They voted to move forward with the new bylaw (now combining both medical and recreational marijuana) and indicated that they are satisfied with their work product. Now, it is up to the Town Meeting Members to decide the path forward.
Although the PB believes that they have crafted a viable bylaw, anyone reading it would have to conclude that it is confusing with many issues left unanswered or, at best, open to interpretation. Contrary to the Planning Board’s best intentions, it does not give assurance to the residents of Fairhaven who are greatly concerned by this massive sea change taking place in our town.
Unfortunately, the new bylaw is vague and too broad to be meaningful. It now combines both medical and recreational marijuana into one muddled catch-all. Under this conglomeration it appears that the Trojan Horse of Medical Marijuana, as worthy as it is, has become “a bait and switch” greasing the pathway to move customers to the less regulated “recreational” products without doctor oversight because no medical card will be required.
Effectively this is promoting, and normalizing products designed for people to get high. It appears that the only regulation for so-called recreational adult use is showing an ID to prove your age over 21. Even then, there are apparently no restrictions on how much an individual can purchase at one time (and perhaps illegally redistribute).
The by-law as now written does not delineate the number and the types of licenses with specificity (as the previous medical bylaw did) and relies on “all other types” to include everything — opening the door to uses not yet imagined.
The PB entertained questions but often didn’t answer them or “passed the buck” to other authorities because they said it was not within their purview. Yet, they conducted Ad Hoc meetings with town authorities and, because no minutes were kept, the public does not know what transpired. What concerns were raised? How will they be addressed by the police, fire department, EMT’s etc.? Perhaps this isn’t in the purview of the Planning Board, but these questions need to be answered before the public can feel comfortable.
Further, the word “cap” continues to be misleading because it is actually a “floor” or starting point and can increase under the formula initiated by the Cannabis Control Commission, This would mean you must have at least 3 retail shops and 9+ special permits for all the “other uses” which are known and with more yet to come in February by the Cannabis Control Commission.
These permits will likely increase as CCC Board mandates additional different use allowances. Where will the Consumable/eatery shops be located? How will home delivery be regulated? We don’t know because the Cannabis Control Commission has yet to make their position known.
Moreover, if Bask is first in line to secure the recreational license (as stated several times by the PB) does that mean Bask/AmeriCann (headquartered in Colorado) will hold a monopoly in Fairhaven. Evidently, Bask and AmeriCann have the same executive leadership.
At the PB meeting of 11/1 conflicts in the bylaw were identified, listened to, but without any action taken to clarify the wording — just heavy reliance on the Town Counsel’s review which should not be taken as gospel because interpretations and guidance by the Cannabis Control Commission continue to evolve.
Despite all the above, the PB saw no need to support the extended six-month moratorium which would allow the CCC rulings due in February to be considered. Clearly the PB is weary of the issue and just want it to go away. They think passing the combined bylaw will make that happen. But the reality is that it isn’t going away. There will be an onslaught of special permits requested and each will require interpretations that will set precedent that will have to be factored into the next permit. Because the language is vague, rather than protect the town, this bylaw will likely confuse and leave the town open to challenges. At the very least, it will make much more work for the Planning Board.
The PB claims that the bylaw can be changed as needed but, if that is so, why the rush to pass it now? Would it not be wise to fine-tune it as much as possible with consideration to how neighboring towns are proceeding?
Many questions have been asked repeatedly but the answers remain unclear. In fact, abutters have yet to be notified. In fairness to the PB, the town leaders need to communicate what is happening. There are many questions that need to be addressed and town leaders need to communicate to the residents.
Until then — know that at the November 13 Special Meeting Town Members can vote to bypass the bylaw until it is crystal clear regarding what it promotes and how it protects. I urge you to review the bylaw — read it online — and judge for yourself if it is understandable.
A vote to extend the moratorium offers the only safeguard that is risk-free. We have been granted the opportunity for an extension until June 2019 — it would be irresponsible not to use it.
Cathy Delano, Fairhaven
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