Bourne Selectmen Seek Moratorium On Pot Dispensaries
By: Michael J. Rausch
It may be the law, but the cultivation and dispensing of medicinal marijuana here in Bourne may not be happening anytime soon.
Selectmen took action during Tuesday night’s meeting that could put a hold on the placement of any medical marijuana dispensary center in town until at least next fall. Selectmen approved a draft moratorium on such a facility. Adoption of the moratorium will now be taken up during a public hearing when the Bourne Planning Board meets on September 26.
The move would also need to win approval at the October 21 Special Town Meeting.
Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino presented the draft to selectmen this week on behalf of Selectman Linda M. Zuern, who did not attend Tuesday night’s meeting.
Mr. Guerino explained to the board that the state department of public health recently came forward with draft regulations for the new medical marijuana law. The law, presented by petition, was approved by Massachusetts voters in last November’s statewide election. Voters in Bourne approved the measure 5,812 to 4,027.
Mr. Guerino noted that under the regulations no more than 35 dispensaries are to be allowed throughout the state, with at least one being placed in each of Massachusetts’ 13 counties. He noted that Bourne cannot prohibit a facility being putting in the town, but the town “may place a moratorium in an effort to find the most realistic location for such operations.”
Mr. Guerino said that once the board approves the moratorium, it then moves on to the planning board, which will schedule a public hearing on the issue.
“Once the article is advertised for hearing, the moratorium is de facto in effect,” Mr. Guerino told the board.
In an e-mail yesterday, Mr. Guerino announced that the required public hearing before the planning board on the medical marijuana moratorium has been scheduled for September 26. He mentioned that notice of the public hearing will be in newspapers for the next two weeks, making the effective date of the moratorium September 5.
Mr. Guerino said that the majority of the language in the moratorium was created by Town Planner Coreen V. Moore after she had reviewed a number of bylaws from other towns.
It cited “novel and complex legal, planning, and public safety issues” that come with implementing the new law. In addition, the draft said that the town needs time to study those issues and address the potential impact of the new measure on local zoning. The moratorium will give the town “sufficient time to engage in a planning process to address the effects of such structures and uses in the town and to enact bylaws in a manner consistent with sound land use planning goals and objectives.”
Selectman Peter J. Meier took issue with some of the language in the document. Mr. Meier said that some of the wording was Ms. Moore’s point of view.
“That’s an opinion of one person, the person who wrote that. That’s not going to be the town’s opinion,” he said.
Mr. Guerino said that Mr. Meier was correct in his assessment, but the language was “similar to other language that has been adopted in other communities.”
“That is the suggested complexity of the language to allow for a moratorium to take place,” Mr. Guerino said. He added that the language may be amended during the course of the hearing process.
Resident Joseph A. Agrillo Sr. of Monument Beach asked selectmen to clarify what happens after the board approves sending the measure to the planning board. Mr. Meier explained that the planning board will hold its public hearing and then decide to support it, deny it, or take no action at all.
Mr. Agrillo then asked what happens if the planning board takes no action. “Is that the end of it?” he asked.
Mr. Meier said no, that the planning board would announce at Town Meeting their vote of no action.
“Then it is up to the Town Meeting floor to make a positive motion on the floor… or a negative motion, one or the other,” he said.
As stipulated in the bylaw approved by selectmen, the moratorium will be in effect through September 30, 2014.