AP NEWS

Residents Can Help Shape Rec. Pot in Lunenburg

April 10, 2019

LUNENBURG -- Before being asked to decide the future of recreational marijuana businesses at Town Meeting, residents will have a chance to voice their opinions at a public forum hosted by the Planning Board on April 22.

The public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Joseph Bilotta Meeting Room in Town Hall. There are seven articles sponsored by the Planning Board dealing with recreational marijuana regulation and prohibition.

“The Planning Board felt that they were unsure where the community stood on the issue,” said Adam Burney, the town’s Land Use Director. “We are required to have some regulation on marijuana establishments and the board did not want to have an all or nothing prohibition on marijuana.”

The town has a temporary moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses which expires in June, so residents must decide which types of non-medical marijuana businesses to allow in Lunenburg. Residents will also have the chance to adopt an outright ban on the different types of businesses.

The first option is a bylaw that regulates retail sales and would allow businesses to operate in the designated zoning district if the applicant enters into a host community agreement with the town and secures special permit/site-plan approval from the Planning Board, said Burney.

State law requires that the number of retail marijuana licenses granted is equal to 20 percent of the liquor licenses in town, so there would be at most two in Lunenburg.

According to Burney, six articles being proposed would individually prohibit the different types of marijuana establishments. Residents will be asked to weigh in on prohibitions for marijuana cultivators, product manufacturers, testing facilities, retailers, transporters, and researchers.

“The board didn’t have a sense that the community had a clear stance in one camp or the other, so, they didn’t want to leave any options off the table,” he said.

In other words, he said, voters can decide to reject retail establishments but approve a cultivation business.

There is also a bylaw proposed by the Board of Selectmen to do a 3 percent tax on the sale of marijuana, said Burney.

Lunenburg voted “yes” on legalizing marijuana in the 2016 election, so any ban approved on the Town Meeting floor would need to go on the ballot for the next election.

Burney said that it will be important for residents to know that the approval of the regulatory article is key because there is no guarantee that the prohibition articles will pass at both Town Meeting and on the ballot.

If the regulatory article is shot down, he said, then the town would be left without marijuana regulation, and those establishments would be allowed to build and open in the designated zoning district.

Without a marijuana establishment specific bylaw, controls and regulations wouldn’t be able to be implemented, according to Burney. The town would then be dealing with marijuana as if it were any other kind of establishment.

He said that the Planning Board has spent months putting together the warrant articles, and that the board is acting in the town’s best interest.

“The document is a living thing and can be changed going forward as the industry and the community grows,” he said.