Wareham voters asked to approve marijuana regulations at Special Town Meeting, set for March 12

Mar 7, 2018

Voters will be asked to approve new local rules related to the sale of recreational marijuana at a Special Town Meeting scheduled for March 12 at 7 p.m. in Wareham High School. All registered voters may attend.

In November 2016, a state ballot question passed that paved the way for recreational sales of marijuana in Massachusetts. The state’s Cannabis Control Commission is drafting a framework for the oversight of retail marijuana shops. Those shops are due to open in July, and it is currently legal to possess and grow marijuana for personal use.

At Town Meeting last year, voters approved a moratorium on retail marijuana shops to allow officials time to draft rules governing sales. That moratorium expires June 30. April 1 marks the first day the Cannabis Control Commission must start accepting applications from potential marijuana retailers, cultivators and product manufacturers.

During the Board of Selectmen's Tuesday, Chair Peter Teitelbaum urged voters to approve the regulations.

“The surest way to have town overrun with retail marijuana establishments is to have this voted down,” he said. “Unless we vote to limit the number of these places and where they can be it’s going to be the wild west here.”

At Special Town Meeting, voters will decide whether or not they want to limit the number and location of retail marijuana shops. Under the bylaw, the number of recreational marijuana shops would be limited 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. In Wareham, there are 13 package stores.

There are some state rules, such as prohibiting stores from opening up within 500 feet of a school or anywhere children normally gather. There will be four items on the Special Town Meeting agenda. Three will be zoning bylaws and one will be a bylaw allowing the Town of Wareham to collect a 3 percent excise tax from sales.

Wareham’s rules, if adopted, would require those stores to open in the industrial, strip commercial east of Depot Street and institutional districts. 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.

Already the town has seen interest from three potential recreational marijuana developers. All three have approached the Planning Department.

Director of Planning & Community Development Kenneth Buckland confirmed that, saying one potential applicant inquired about a new medical marijuana operation and another asked about a retail project with on-site growing and processing facilities. The third group included the developers of a long-gestating medical marijuana facility near Tobey Hospital to discuss their building permit.

No official paperwork has been filed yet.