Ashburnham Board to Draft Recreational Pot Bylaw
By Mina Corpuz
ASHBURNHAM -- The Planning Board will begin to draft a bylaw to regulate recreational marijuana after a survey showed a majority of respondents support having the establishments in town.
“Let’s get it started,” Vice Chairman Richard Wright said at the board’s meeting Thursday.
Of the 550 residents who responded, about 78 percent said that the town shouldn’t ban all types of marijuana establishments.
Commercial growing, manufacturing, testing and retail received at least 70 percent support from respondents.
The survey also asked about other-purpose establishments like spas or yoga studios selling or allowing marijuana use on their premises. About 62 percent of those who took the survey said yes.
Planning Board Chairman Roger Hoyt said the group will make considerations and look at specifics, like how establishments will operate in town and where they would be allowed.
“This is now about tailoring the (state) laws to Ashburnham,” he said adding there will be a public hearing for residents to provide feedback and ask questions and depending on timing, the bylaw could be ready for Town Meeting.
Ashburnham doesn’t have a moratorium for marijuana establishments. Other towns that do have one are working to pass their regulations by the end of the year.
Wright said the board can move things along by tweaking existing zoning to craft regulations for recreational marijuana.
Members were pleased with the survey participation.
When the board was planning to release it, it looked at how other towns like Lunenburg surveyed their residents. Ashburnham opted for the survey platform Typeform because it was user-friendly, said Clerk Jerilyn Losordo.
The survey was live for about a month and accessible on the town website and Facebook.
Hoyt said it is helpful to have more information that shows what residents think about recreational marijuana.
Some individuals and businesses have asked about opening a marijuana business in Ashburnham, he said, but not many have followed up because the town doesn’t have its rules in place.
Bill Johnson, chairman of the town Economic Development Commission, said the commission is prepared to work with the Planning Board on recreational marijuana.
Most members of the commission support making marijuana business part of the town’s economic development, he said. Those businesses could help diversify Ashburnham’s tax base and provide jobs.
“I don’t care if they’re growing soybeans or marijuana,” Johnson said. “It’s legal.”
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