Wareham Planning Board receives support for marijuana regulations

Feb 13, 2018

Wareham voters will be asked to approve new rules limiting the number and location of recreational marijuana stores following a packed public hearing on Monday.

The Planning Board's hearing attracted approximately 30 people. Recreational marijuana sales are scheduled to begin this summer.

At the hearing, Selectmen Chair Peter Teitelbaum said officials carefully crafted the regulations, which would limit pot shops to areas where “people would object to them the least.”

“It’s the best effort we’ve come up with at this time,” Teitelbaum said.

In November 2016, voters passed a state ballot question that paved the way for recreational sales of marijuana in the state. Currently, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission is drafting rules for the sale of the recreational marijuana.

Voters at a Special Town Meeting set for March 12 at 7 p.m. in the Wareham High School auditorium will be asked to approve three bylaws related to zoning (where in town the retail stores can be located) and one that addresses whether the town should collect a 3 percent tax from recreational marijuana sales. Three percent is the maximum amount of tax allowed for retail marijuana in Massachusetts.

The regulations would limit the number of recreational marijuana shops in Wareham to three, tied to the number of liquor stores in town. The state recommends limiting pot shops to less than 20 percent of the number of package stores. If adopted, the bylaws would also require stores to open in the general commercial, strip commercial and institutional districts. The general commercial district stretches on both sides of Route 28 from the I-195 on-ramp to the area of Robertson’s Auto Salvage. The strip commercial district is located just past Robertson’s Auto Salvage on Route 25 and extends to the Bourne town line. The institutional district is located near Tobey Hospital.

Originally, officials planned to tackle the marijuana bylaws during the town’s Spring Town Meeting, set for April 23. However, the state has an April 1 deadline for passing its own recreational marijuana regulations. April 1 marks the first day the Cannabis Control Commission must start accepting applications from potential marijuana retailers, cultivators and product manufacturers. If the town does not approve local bylaws regulating recreational marijuana before April 1, it could have no say in how many or where retail stores can operate, or whether or how much sales will be taxed.

Many at the hearing supported the board’s efforts to control recreational marijuana stores locally, while disagreeing with the state law that made them possible.

“It’s a disgusting industry. It’s really terrible,” said Cathy Phinney, a registered nurse for the past 50 years and Board of Health member. “I would only urge you to limit the number of establishments to the smallest amount allowed.”

Some supported the coming arrival of pot shops, including Robert Martinez, a Falmouth-based lawyer.

Many towns on the upper Cape have banned recreational marijuana sales, making Wareham a potential hub for the marijuana industry in the area. Martinez said that would likely have many people stop in town on their way to Cape Cod.

“The benefit is it would bring a lot more people to town and increase business,” said Martinez. “It’s not just the people who are selling the pot that will make a lot of money, but all of the town’s other businesses.”