Residents have right to choose on pot shops
Fairhaven Residents and Town Meeting Members,
You will be asked at Town Meeting on Tuesday November 13, 2018 to vote on several very important town altering decisions which will impact us now and long into the future. There will be an article to extend the moratorium on Recreational Marijuana Retail sales until June 2019. The current moratorium expires December 31, 2018.
There will also be an article on the proposed new zoning bylaw for the selling of recreational marijuana retail stores in our town.
Town Meeting Members voted in 2017 to pursue a moratorium to obtain information and knowledge from the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) about how these shops would be executing recreational retail sales. Our Planning Board (PB) created a proposed bylaw based on information available back in 2017. Since then the CCC has consistently changed and adopted new marijuana allowance uses.
Over the next few months the CCC will release more uses, such as, social consumption places (known as pot cafes); direct-delivery of marijuana to residential addresses; and, uses that have not even been made known yet.
As you read this letter, the commission is still working on current and new uses to be released to the towns and cities in Mass. Therefore, we as a town should support an extension opportunity offered by the Attorney General Maura Healey. AG Healey recognizes that towns and cities need to fully understand the extremely complex issues and ramifications.
This extension helps everyone understand and helps the town get it right the first time when they open the doors — instead of having to correct missteps later. The current Planning Board bylaw allows for “all other uses” and currently over nine other uses are known, but it also will include uses not yet announced by the CCC, which will result in over nine+ Special Permits to be given out. Yet we are allowing “all uses” instead of erring on the side of caution and protecting the town to specific uses. That is how it is currently written in the by-law article.
The PB has worked hard to create a bylaw based on information that is over a year old and with no information of what is to come from the Cannabis Control Board. This approach is not acceptable when it comes to the town and tax-paying residents. It is not of the fault of the PB but the constant ever-changing and increasing allowances from the Cannabis Control Commission.
I heard some people say they had their right to vote for recreational marijuana and that can’t be taken away and they are right…no one is trying to take away that right. You can consume all the recreational marijuana you want in your own home. Medical Marijuana is not affected by a moratorium either. You can still use the doctor-prescribed medical card to purchase your medicinal marijuana.
This is about giving Fairhaven residents the right to choose if they want recreational retail shops and unlimited uses being permitted and how to properly regulate them in town. That is our right as well. It is a completely different issue and should not be muddled together.
New Bedford is opening eight retail shops and unlimited permit for all uses. Should we not look to them to see their outcomes and how it is going there before opening the gates here? We can also look to several of our neighbors, Acushnet for example, to see how it is going with them as the residents declined to allow it to be sold in town even after they voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. Why did they choose this path?
Did our Planning Board discuss the issues with Acushnet’s Board or New Bedford in crafting our By-law? This question was asked at town PB public meeting and no proper answers were given.
So, we come down to a crossroad and which path to choose as residents, voters, and town meeting members. I hope you choose to enact the moratorium which will 100% protect the town and is 0% risk to our town for us to get it right. It will give us more knowledge benchmarks from other towns, and new information on allowances from the CCC.
Is that additional time really going to cause any harm to our town? No! On the contrary, the lack of information and guidelines from the CCC and how it affects our bylaws can potentially cause such harm.
We should take advantage of the moratorium extension until June 2019 and pass a more precise zoning bylaw at the May 2019 town meeting.
Bernard F Roderick, Fairhaven
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