South Hadley votes to ban retail marijuana sales and manufacturing

  • A sativa strain of marijuana grown by Phill Lamson is shown Oct. 5, 2017.

Staff Writer
Published: 4/11/2018 12:24:07 AM

SOUTH HADLEY — Voters passed a ban on the establishment of any retail marijuana facilities in town by about 350 votes in Tuesday’s annual town election.

With the vote, South Hadley becomes the first community in Hampshire County to ban retail marijuana establishments within its borders.

Voters were asked whether they would favor banning the “retail sale, commercial cultivation, testing, manufacturing, packaging distribution or any other commercial activity related to marijuana/cannabis products.” A “yes” vote indicated support of the ban, while a “no” vote indicated opposition to the ban.

According to Nicole Casolari, of the town’s Board of Registrars, 1,443 people, or 57 percent, voted in favor of the ban, while 1,094 voted against the ban.

Of about 11,000 registered voters in South Hadley, 24 percent, voted in this year’s election, as compared to 14 percent last year.

“I think the marijuana referendum is bringing a much wider demographic to the polls this year,” said Town Meeting member Liz Austin.

The question of banning retail marijuana establishments had to be put to the voters because a majority of the South Hadley electorate approved the legalization of marijuana under Question 4 in 2016.

At a special Town Meeting in January, members voted 44-37 in favor of Article 6, seeking to amend a town general bylaw banning all types of marijuana establishments consistent with the state’s recreational marijuana law.

Proponents of the ban said having marijuana businesses in town would have a detrimental effect on youth and would increase law enforcement and health care costs.

At the polls Tuesday, Scott Feldman, a 31-year-old former journalist, said the marijuana referendum drew him to the polls more than the elected positions. Feldman said voters in South Hadley tend to skew older, so he expected the ban would pass.

“I don’t think marijuana is particularly harmful. It’s a controlled substance and can be regulated as such,” he said. “The state voted to legalize it. I don’t know why we’re trying to overturn it.”

Desiree Smelcer, 41, a librarian at the South Hadley Public Library, voted not to ban recreational marijuana businesses, saying the revenue could help fund some much-needed projects around town.

“We need new schools and we need a new senior center,” Smelcer said.

Even some who don’t favor recreational marijuana use opposed the ban for economic reasons.

“Why is South Hadley depriving itself of the revenue?” said M.P. “Chevy” Chevrett, 66, who voted against the ban despite his personal opposition to marijuana.

Sarah Robertson can be reached at

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