S. Hadley puts hold on pot shop applications

  • Money and Marijuana. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Published: 12/20/2016 9:56:03 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — Town officials say they’re not ready to allow pot shops just yet.

A unanimous Select Board on Tuesday approved a moratorium on accepting applications for retail marijuana sales until July 1, 2017.

Following a brief discussion, the five-member board voted to adopt the ban.

“There has been a number of people internally that have expressed concern whether we are quite ready to start addressing the retail sale of recreational marijuana, although it doesn’t actually go into effect until Oct. 1, 2018,” Town Administrator Michael Sullivan told the board.

Sullivan explained it was an attempt to allow all the various entities in town to have the opportunity over the next six months to plan and make sure precautions were in place and within the law.

“As it says in the moratorium, we are very respectful of the people of the commonwealth and of South Hadley. This isn’t to try and change that or send it asunder,” Sullivan said.

“It is simply saying to the public, to everyone, over the next six months, we hope we are given the opportunity to properly plan — make sure protections are in place to the extent we can within the law.”

In the moratorium, the Select Board acknowledges its charge of public safety and that the governor and general court continue to modify legislative action.

Under the moratorium, South Hadley won’t accept applications for retail pot sales “until July 1, 2017 or such time appropriate measures are in place at the state and local levels, by proper means to address the will of the people and the safety of said public, on this matter in manner which is reasonable and thoughtful.”

The use of recreational marijuana became legal Dec. 15 following a statewide referendum. The initiative passed with nearly 1.77 million votes in favor to more than 1.52 million against.

With the adoption of Question 4, local governments were also given the ability to adopt ordinances and bylaws by public referendum that impose “reasonable safeguards” on the operation of marijuana establishments, including regulating hours of operation, where they can be located, limiting the number of establishments allowed in town, restricting cultivation, processing and manufacturing considered a “public nuisance,” and restricting public signage.

Residents can also file a petition, signed by at least 10 percent of the population, to have a local referendum on prohibiting the consumption of marijuana on the premises where it is sold — so-called “cannabis cafes.”

Select Board Chairman John Hine asked why, if the actual sale of marijuana is not lawful until October 2018, the board was dealing with it now.

“Nobody can legally come before the town to request a license,” Hine said.

Board member Sarah Etelman said an interested party may still request a license to sell and establish a business prior to being able to sell.

Sullivan questioned the board as to what would happen to communities that hadn’t adopted a statement, such as the moratorium, if the state decided to expedite things.

“This is kind of the lacquer on top of the stain — another coat of paint,” Sullivan said. “To be honest with you, I think all of these moratoriums if they were significantly challenged in court they would kind of crumble — ours included.”

Following the reading of the moratorium, Police Chief Steve Parentela told the board it was well said.

He characterized the action not as a step backwards but as the widening of stance — “trying to get on more stable ground.”

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com


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