MIDDLEBORO — The Board of Selectmen is urgently wrestling with what they call “the complicated recreational marijuana laws” that may leave the town with four facilities that could sell recreational marijuana.
Under state law, any medical marijuana facility that signed an agreement prior to July 1, 2017, could open a recreational marijuana facility.
Middleboro has signed five host agreements for medical marijuana facilities and four of those under agreements could also sell recreational marijuana because its owners signed prior to July 1, 2017.
Selectmen discussed the matter last week when Town Manager Robert Nunes gave an overview of state regulations regarding medical and recreational marijuana facilities. The facilities are allowed in areas zoned under general use with a special permit issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Nunes gave selectmen a summary of the law and said since the town voted in favor of the state ballot question to legalize marijuana, four of the host agreements it issued for medical marijuana could now also sell recreational marijuana. The vendors would have to apply to the state for a license and negotiate a new host agreement with the town.
On Nov. 8, 2016, the “Town of Middleboro residents supported Question 4, which approved the legalization, regulation, and taxation of adult use marijuana by 621 votes,” said Nunes in a May 7 email to selectmen.
“Unless the town establishes a bylaw, all four Medical Marijuana Agreements signed prior to July 1, 2017 can convert without further input from the Town,” said Nunes.
“There’s not much the town can do if the four come before selectmen now,” said Nunes.
The town has a second option to ban recreational marijuana facilities according to Nunes, “A special or regular election may be held to vote on an outright ban of adult use (through a ballot question).”
The town could also establish a moratorium to delay adult use marijuana until Dec. 31, 2018, but this would require a two-thirds vote of town meeting for a zoning amendment, Nunes told the selectman.
“I would be interested in pursuing more local control through a by-law,” said Selectman Vice-Chair John Knowlton adding, “If we do nothing, we have no local control.”
“I am in favor of capitalism and I am in favor of competition. Seems like there is some money to be made here,” said Planning Board Chairman Adam Bond. “We need discussion to see if people want to limit it to one or want all four.”
“I am not sure what the general public had in mind when they voted for this,” said Selectman Neil Rosenthal who supported moving forward with a bylaw limiting it to one noting that the town could call for a special town meeting rather than wait for the Oct. 3 special Town Meeting.
“Town Meeting plays a big role,” said Rosenthal, in reference to the town’s options.
Rosenthal called the law “extremely confusing” and recommended the selectmen get an opinion from town counsel, “The more I read it the more confused I get.”
“It might not be a bad idea for the Town of Middleboro to hire someone who has a little more legal expertise in this. Clearly this is an important issue not only to Board of Selectmen but to the residents and business owners in the town,” said selectman Allin Frawley. “And I don’t know if we are the most qualified people to be making this decision. I think some guidance may be prudent.”
“I think it is a good idea going to outside legal counsel. I don’t have a problem with that,” said Nunes.
The selectmen asked Nunes to do further research and look into hiring an attorney to advise them. They agreed to place the matter on their May 21 agenda for further discussion.