Mattapoisett Planning Board supports permanent marijuana ban

By Tanner Harding | Apr 02, 2018
Photo by: Tanner Harding Sandra Dawson speaks at the Planning Board marijuana public forum.

Mattapoisett — Some Mattapoisett residents are worried that allowing recreational marijuana retailers in town will open the door to drug addiction for younger citizens, while others argue that pot shops simply don't fit in with the community's character.

Town voters will consider an outright ban on the retailers at Town Meeting in May. Resident George Randall proposed the measure via a citizens petition.

“This marijuana issue is a threat to kids, teens and young adults,” Randall told the Planning Board and residents gathered at a public hearing on the issue Monday. “Addiction is so easy but very hard to break…If we open the door to marijuana and drugs, it will be impossible to close.”

When the legalization of recreational marijuana appeared on the 2016 state election ballot, the town overall voted against the measure – 2,220 votes to 2,073.

Because Mattapoisett is a "no" community, it can ban retail establishments by a two-thirds majority Town Meeting vote. (Towns that voted in favor of legalizing marijuana must approve a ban on sales via a ballot question and a Town Meeting vote.)

Finance Committee member Colby Rottler spoke in favor of the ban.

“It’s not for our town,” he said. “This is a nice town with nice people and a good school system, and I don’t think we need that kind of establishment in our town.”

One resident said that she understood reasons for not wanting a dispensary in town, but noted that it might be a good idea to have a safe place where people could purchase marijuana.

“My son has medical conditions, and he uses medical marijuana instead of opioids,” she explained. “The legalization could offset the opioid epidemic…I understand the worry for parents…but where is your balance? People are saying 'no,' they don’t want it, which is fine, but where are you going to offer it legally and safely for people to go to instead of taking opiates?”

Resident Sandra Dawson wanted to confirm that Mattapoisett wasn’t the first town to try to ban recreational establishments.

“Have people banned it already somewhere else?” Dawson asked. “We’re not the first town to take it on like this?”

Attorney Katie Laughman noted that other towns, including Falmouth and Sandwich, had already implemented a ban.

Planning Board member Janice Robbins said she didn’t necessarily agree one way or the other, but wanted more facts before making a decision on an outright ban.

“I don’t like making decisions on opinions,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of misinformation, and I’m concerned that we should make decisions on good information.”

Her colleague, however, Planning Board member Karen Field was staunchly against having the retailers in town.

“If you want to see the effect of drugs, take a trip to the [Emergency Room],” she said.

Board member Gail Carlson said the state hasn't done enough to regulate the substance – and thinks the town should take control.

“We’re afforded as a town to make our own decision,” she said. “People have voted in this town that they don’t want this, so I think we have to honor that.”

At the 2017 fall Town Meeting, voters approved a moratorium on medical and recreational marijuana establishments until the Planning Board could draft regulatory bylaws. The plan was to have bylaws, whether banning or regulating marijuana, on the docket for the 2018 fall Town Meeting. However, if the citizen’s petition passes, it will eliminate that need.

Elsewhere in the tri-town, both Marion and Rochester have approved moratoriums, and are working on drafting bylaws to regulate recreational establishments.

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