Reminder: Special Town Meeting, Monday, March 12, 2018
Good morning -
I'm writing to remind people that there is a Special Town Meeting on Monday, March 12th at 7:00 p.m. at the Wareham High School Auditorium, to address whether the Town wishes to regulate the number and location of retail marijuana establishments.
There is a level misinformation floating around regarding this subject. Some people think that if we do nothing, then no retail marijuana establishments can open in Wareham. This is absolutely not the case!
In the November 2016 election, Wareham voted 56-44% in favor of the ballot question legalizing the sale of marijuana (statewide, the margin was 53-47%). By voting in favor, our town automatically must accept retail marijuana establishments here.
State regulations specify that local regulations to limit the number of retail marijuana establishments must allow a minimum of at least 20% of the number of retail liquor stores. Wareham presently has 13 package stores, so that would mean a minimum of 2.6 retail marijuana establishments, which per the regulations is rounded up to a minimum of three.
The proposed by-law, if passed, would limit the number to three.
It is important to reiterate that we cannot pass any by-law that would limit the number of retail marijuana establishments to fewer than three, as it would be struck down.
On April 1st, all cities and towns that voted to legalize the sale of marijuana must begin accepting applications from prospective marijuana establishments. Without a limit in place in the Town Zoning By-Laws by that date, the number of retail marijuana establishments that could open in Wareham cannot be controlled. Accordingly, it is important to have any limit in place before April 1st.
Without proper zoning controls in place, retail marijuana establishments could open anywhere, too. For that reason, the warrant article would allow retail marijuana establishments in the Industrial, Institutional and Strip Commercial (Cranberry Highway east of Depot Street to the Buzzards Bay line). These zones were chosen following significant input from citizens, businesses and officials about where retail marijuana establishments would best be located.
We do have a moratorium in place, adopted by a prior Town Meeting, that prevents retail marijuana establishments from opening before July 1, 2018. The moratorium, however, does NOT prevent applicants from submitting their applications on April 1st. So in terms of limiting the eventual number and location of retail marijuana establishments, the moratorium accomplishes nothing.
Also on the Town Meeting Warrant for the March 12th Town Meeting is an article that would impose a local tax of 3% on all retail marijuana sales. This percentage is the maximum allowed by state law.
Some people have complained to me about the idea of passing a local tax, claiming that it constitutes an endorsement of marijuana sales and consumption. In my opinion, since we have to allow the sale and consumption of marijuana anyway, it only makes sense to take advantage of the taxation opportunity that is available to us.
In the event that down the road we find that the by-laws are too restrictive, we can always revisit them.
In closing, I urge citizens to show up and vote in favor of these articles, so that we have at least some level of control on the books over the number and location of retail marijuana establishments.
I look forward to seeing you on March 12th.
Very truly yours,
Peter W. Teitelbaum, Esq.
Wareham Board of Selectmen