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Town Meeting Passes Cannabis By-laws

by Mary Greendale
October 30, 2018

The six articles related to marijuana sale and production all passed Town Meeting, but not until there was an earnest discussion with those who supported retail sales.

The six articles related to marijuana sale and production all passed Town Meeting but not until there was an earnest discussion with opponents of the efforts to prohibit retail sales. The full text of the six articles (#20-26 in the warrant) can be found here. https://www.townofholliston.us/sites/hollistonma/files/uploads/fc_report_for_stm18_final.pdf

Town Counsel Kate Feodoroff  summarized the lengthy by-laws this way:

She explained that the Town must vote in May on the Town’s election ballot to ratify the Town Meeting vote.

There are two different sets of by-law measures, general by-laws and zoning by-laws. The Attorney General recommends enacting both so there is no question in a court as to whether it is a zoning law or not. If it looks like a zoning by-law, it should not be in a general by-law. Ms. Feodoroff admitted this is a very conservative approach.

The proposed by-laws create a licensing structure similar to that of liquor licenses, which need to be renewed on an annual basis. If someone is not operating appropriately, the BOS can call for a hearing or take other actions.

These new requirements call for a Site Plan review. If an existing establishment wants to do anything different from its original agreement, the owners must come back to the Planning Board for technical review.

And facilities can only be located in Industrial Zones (3 circles on map), by Special Permit. The benefit of Special Permits is that the Planning Board can look at each application depending on specific locations and impose limitations as appropriate, case by case.

Mark Schultz, 21 Wedgewood Drive, former longtime member of the Finance Committee, gave an impassioned and very personal speech urging voters to permit retail sales. Mark removed his cap and explained that the reason for his hair loss is chemo treatments for pancreatic cancer, and that thanks to a few friends who have provided him marijuana-laced brownies and other forms of cannabis, he is able to sleep through the night and get some relief after chemo. He asked that people allow retail sales – the closest is Brookline. “It makes a difference to anyone with cancer, it makes a big difference. I hope you will allow a retail or medical shop.”

Blake Mensing of 1865 Washington Street (photo at right) introduced himself as a cannabis attorney who is well versed in the laws and history of the subject of cannabis. He said that the federal government has been lying to people about the dangers for years dating back to Richard Nixon, and the government has criminalized it without foundation. And before Nixon, marijuana was linked to Mexican refugees in a negative way, much as a slur, and yet the feds have a patent on cannabis. He assured people that adults need to lock their cabinets whether they contain liquor or cannabis, and neither should be available to kids. "If you don’t like it, don’t smoke it, but alcohol is 114 times worse for the body,” he said.

Selectman Jay Marsden, 32 Wendy Lane, explained that the town made a decision early on to allow corporate medical cannabis rather than retail. “We’ve signed host agreements. We know that the town supported legalizing marijuana 65-35, but from a town perspective, how do we want to embrace the products?” He told the audience that the articles put into place a framework, so Holliston can continue to control how it interacts with this industry. “Or do we want to move it to a different look and feel for the town,” he asked?

Ken Szajda, 676 Fiske Street and chair of Finance Committee, said he wanted to clarify the financial aspects.(photo below) “Retail does not make the town much money. The way we make money is getting the revenue from the business side. Part of the money we have to spend tonight in free cash came from host agreements.” He then advised everyone to remember that marijuana is still federally illegal and as long as that’s the case, opening a retail establishment carries more risks; and those risks are unknown. “The reason there is only one retail outlet is because the state has not figured it out yet.” He urged voters to establish the regulatory framework to move forward and suggested that the Town can always revisit the issue once things in the state become settled.

The zoning by-laws required approval by two-thirds of the voters present. The first two zoning by-laws passed narrowly, but the rest proceeded easily as opponents accepted the prevailing sentiment.


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Comments (1)

I am pro marijuana but I agree with the approach the town is taking. There are just too many unknowns right now with how the whole retail thing is going to shake out. If your one of the first to open in the State for adult use I am afraid that you will have hundreds of people lining up every morning as people from all over will be flocking to the store. Until more places are open, issues are ironed out, our small town does not need this.

And just an FYI that the article quotes someone saying Brookline is the closest medical facility is false - Framingham and Southboro both have medical dispensary's open and I think Mansfield, Millis, and Marlborough are coming soon. And most of them will deliver - The newton medical place will deliver to Holliston. And I bet the adult use places will end up delivering as well at some point.

And I am pro marijuana but I am also pro what the majority of our town wants for its future.


- Bill Littlefield | 10/30/18 11:30 AM



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