Adams Special Town Meeting Passes Marijuana Bylaw
ADAMS, Mass. — Town meeting approved the new marijuana establishment bylaw as well as seven other articles.
Although the meeting was delayed for over a half-hour Monday because of a lack of quorum, the show went on and the special town meeting warrant in its entirety was speedily passed.
"First thank you all very much for your patience tonight we really appreciate it," Town Moderator Myra Wilk said. "The town clerk reports that there are 85 town meeting members present representing a quorum."
Wilk asked all present town meeting members to start making phone calls at 7 p.m. when the town clerk announced that only 72 members were present when 85 town meeting members are needed for a quorum. The elected members flowed in throughout the night until they hit that number around 7:40.
Town meeting sped through a short town warrant and the only article that caused substantial debate was Article 5 – the marijuana establishment bylaw.
The bylaw would allow all marijuana establishments in the industrial park and retailers would be allowed in a B-2 district with a special permit.
The only caveat is that the dispensary must be 250 feet away from where children regularly congregate.
Town meeting member John Cowie held the article with concerns that the bylaw did not address the regulation of the marijuana establishments.
Interim Town Administrator Donna Cesan said the proposed bylaw really focuses on where these establishments can exist, and the regulations of their operation are more or less still under the state's purview.
Police Chief Richard Tarsa said the bylaw is less about allowing or not allowing marijuana retailers into town because Adams overwhelmingly voted to support legalization and more about getting a bylaw on the books.
"It is a good bylaw, and there was a lot of give and take to get where we are, and it addresses a lot of issues," Tarsa said. "I know a lot of people aren't in favor of it but unfortunately this is the way it has to be. We need regulations because if we don't it reverts to the state's regulations."
Board of Health member Bruce Shepley spoke more so to medical than recreational marijuana and said other than zoning, the state regulates the dispensaries and other establishments.
"It is state dictated, and it will be regulated by state guidelines," he said. "All of those issues: who can get it, how it will be delivered, where it can be sold from will be set by the state."
Cowie added that he had concerns about the effect the establishments may have on youth and policing and had questions about possible home delivery.
Tarsa said it is possible for a medical marijuana facility to deliver, however, the company interested in opening in Adams currently does not plan to do this. He said this is still an unknown, as are many other things, with recreational because the Cannabis Control Commission is still reviewing regulations.
"As I stand here right now, there are a lot of things I can't give you answers on," Tarsa said. "There are still a lot of questions I have that can't be answered until the CCC comes out with their regulations."
Cowie's final question was if the town can tax the marijuana.
Cesan said only recreational can be taxed and the town has yet to discuss this. She said this will likely be addressed at the annual town meeting.
Before moving on to the next warrant article, Zoning Board of Appeals member Peter West suggested that the ZBA hold special permit granting authority instead of the Planning Board.
"The Zoning Board handles 99.9 percent of the special permits in town and there are only two, now three, that they don't do," he said. "If the Planning Board wants to become the special permit granting authority, they should take them all."
Cesan said because the bylaw is new, the Planning Board wanted to monitor it because it will likely have to be modified as it is put into use.
"They want to keep a close eye on it and as this evolves it may need to be changed and tweaked," she said. "So that was the rational just knowing it would probably be modified in the future."
The article needed two-thirds of the town meeting vote to pass: 71 voted to approve the article, 10 opposed and four abstained.
The bulk of the warrant aligned the town's bylaws with the Municipal Modernization Act. Articles 1 and 2, which passed with little discussion, only codify which town employees have specific spending authorities for a variety of revolving funds and revenue sources and limitations associated with.
This only streamlines the process and in the past, the town had to make these appointments annually.
This also goes for Article 6, which just states that funds from parking meters be placed in a separate account and can only be expended on parking related projects. The town already practices this.
Article 3, which extends snow and ice removal enforcement beyond the fire district to the entire town, also passed with little controversy.
Article 7 also hit no roadblocks and town meeting accepted a bylaw change that would allow the selectmen to set a speed limit of 25 mph in any thickly settled or business district in town that is not a state highway.
This lets the town set these limits without going through a lengthy approval process with the state.
Article 8 also finally passed after being tabled at last town meeting. Article 8 grants an easement that will allow a force sewer main and accessory sewer lines on Gould Road for a property on the road. The town carries no liability and it will not cost the town.
Before closing, town meeting member Michael Mach said he was disappointed that it took almost 45 minutes to get a quorum.
"If you are going to be a town meeting member you have to come to these meetings. It is a disgrace," he said. "I don't know why you run if you don't go to these meetings."
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