Voters expand Marijuana zoning buffer. Moot point for dispensary opponents?

by beth on April 13, 2016

A citizen’s petition article to expand the buffer zone for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries passed at Town Meeting tonight. An additional proposal to limit dispensary hours failed to pass muster.

The article that did pass is not likely to have the effect desired by proponents. According to John Rooney, the law won’t impact CommCan’s permit for 255 Turnpike Road. The Board of Selectmen Chair said that Town Counsel informed them the law can’t be applied retroactively.

The increased buffer zone was opposed by selectmen. Rooney told the audience that the change would leave only allow two parcels in town, both under demolition plans by the owner, EMC.

Petitioner Marnie Hoolahan rebutted the Town’s list as “disingenuous”. She said that it ruled out properties abutting the proposed Park Central 40B which has yet to be approved.

Hoolahan claimed to have located 6 properties. And she furthered that the EMC properties to have roads built through would still have enough land for qualifying buildings.

Hoolahan summed up that the Attorney General has yet to reject zoning for too few parcels. She said if it’s a problem, let the AG reject it rather than the voters. 

A second article was pulled by Hoolahan on the floor. She said that the Zoning Board of Appeals already restricted CommCan’s permit from selling recreational marijuana.

The third article, which failed, would have limited hours to Monday-Friday from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm or by appointment only. Some who were against a dispensary near a school were also against limiting patient access to those hours. The vote failed to gain the 2/3 majority required.

1 JMO April 14, 2016 at 9:38 AM

I understand that the 1000′ buffer doesn’t affect the current tenants of the Rte 9 property. What I didn’t understand is will they have to move once the lease is up for renewal? (ie can the lease be renewed with the new zoning restriction?) At the very least the new zoning law will impact any future dispensary that might want to locate in Southborough. I would also be curious to hear from some people who didn’t want to restrict hours. It was late, people were tired, and this point wasn’t really debated to the extent that I heard the views of those opposed to the article. I don’t want to stir things up. I would just like to hear others points of view. I didn’t see a hardship with that given the home delivery option, and my assumption that affected individuals will plan for any specified closing.

2 beth April 14, 2016 at 11:00 AM

I haven’t heard of any legal restrictions that link the permit to a length of lease. And the zoning protection from the recent ANR applied to the site.

The time restriction would apply to any dispensary, not just near those schools. And as Mr. Rooney pointed out, it would be those hours during summer break, vacations, etc. Those factors may have effected voters’ decisions.

3 SB Resident April 14, 2016 at 1:10 PM

I’m not sure that I understand that the new buffers shouldn’t apply. Just because our selectman and counsel “think so” doesn’t mean that is correct. We could certainly choose to let this play out in court if that’s where it wound up. I’ll bet they don’t have every i dotted and t crossed correctly, not to mention this is regarding a federally banned substance, so there aren’t too many legal legs to stand on regarding any of this. Given that, I doubt commcan would ever pursue it legally, they would probably just move on to the next town like they have with every other town that has rejected a dispensary.

The problem is that our selectmen apparently want this thing for some reason, enough so that they seem like they are going to continue to push for it in spite of the will of the town meeting voters.

4 M April 14, 2016 at 12:04 PM

This issue was very sadly and poorly handled at the meeting. For something so controversial, it deserved legitimate debate. I believe the moderator incorrectly allowed the presenter of the motion, Ms. Hoolahan to Move the Question. There were 6 people standing at the microphone waiting for their turn to speak while one representive of a church read a 3 page document in support. As the presenter of the motion, Ms. Hoolahan was not allowed to speak again until reasonable time had been given to those other six people, or any others who wanted to speak. ( See the rules.) She jumped to the open microphone, basically jumping ahead of the line of those waiting on the other side. Her “Move the vote” was out of order. Moderator’s (paraphrased) response was “Well let’s vote on the ‘Move’ and let the voters decide if we keep discussing this:

The point is that there was not sufficient time given to those who wanted to speak on the motion. It was rushed because the hour was late, because the first night had technical difficulties with the microphones, the second night started at 7:30, Ms. Hoolahan had business travel the next two days and our Town Meeting was inconveniencing her, and SO, we rushed the vote. A shame.

And after all that nonsense, it is not retrocactive. The irony.

5 JMO April 14, 2016 at 11:19 PM

I totally agree that that the people standing should have had a turn to speak. I, for one, was interested in hearing what they had to say.

6 Doreen A April 14, 2016 at 6:06 PM

The people of Southboro are going to have to accept the fact that CommCan, Inc. is coming to town. They are within their legal right to offer an alternative & holistic approach to pain management. The bylaw was carefully written and passed by the voters, therefore the BOS and ZBA followed the law and had no choice but to issue the permits. There was no hidden agenda, just some “smart talking” to get us upwards of $500,000 a year in taxes. The people of this town really need to do their homework on the issues and start being proactive instead of being reactive.

7 Heather Gowdy April 14, 2016 at 10:50 PM

I agree with M. I left Town Meeting feeling disheartened and disillusioned. We’ve lived in town for 12 years and I’ve always found it hard to watch questions that seem like they should be up for a town-wide vote get decided by the few residents who are able to be away from home late at night on a very specific Monday or Tuesday during what is for most of us a very busy time of year. Yet I have been told that Town Meeting is “better” because it allows for discussion and debate. So I came ready to speak on a measure that I cared about – and had no opportunity, thanks to Ms. Hoolahan’s rush to cut off discussion and move her own question before anyone could present a dissenting opinion. I wasn’t even in line yet; I didn’t feel the need to stand behind five people and wait in the aisle when I had just spent two nights observing a process that seemed to allow people to come up one at a time, over a (potentially long) period of time, until everyone who wanted to speak had that chance. In the end, I’m sure I wouldn’t have swayed the many who came for the sole purpose of ensuring that medical marijuana had no place in Southborough, but I – and the others who had an opinion – should have been able to be heard. I’m not sure what the point of Town Meeting is, if what Ms. Hoolahan did is allowed – other than to ensure that small, passionate coalitions have an opportunity to push through their agenda.

Medical marijuana is legal in Massachusetts, and the people who need it deserve to have the same access to it as the rest of us have to other prescription medications. I have kids at both Neary and Trottier, and another at Woodward. I don’t want them using marijuana, or any other drug. But there are LOTS of things that I can and should be doing as a parent to minimize that risk, and shoving a legal business into the next town and making it someone else’s problem is nowhere on that list. I have yet to find a situation where NIMBY feels like a morally right response to something, and this is no exception. We are talking about a legal enterprise meeting a legitimate need, and I trust our police force to monitor and manage any risk, just as they do with Walgreens and those businesses that sell or provide alcohol.

Frankly, I don’t understand how someone can’t answer a child’s question about medical marijuana. How does one explain the availability of other commonly prescribed medications (e.g. painkillers, ADHD drugs) that are useful to those who need them but damaging when used or overused recreationally? How does one explain the ubiquitous presence of alcohol in our town? Does everyone who is so concerned about diversion really lock up ALL of their alcohol and medication, all of the time? That has not been my experience in the last 12 years.

Most of those I know well in this town were against Ms. Hoolahan’s articles, but few among them could make it to town meeting – with jobs, work-related travel, kids, illness… it’s not easy. I spoke with a few who have been to Town Meeting before and left so disillusioned that they refuse to return, regardless of what’s on the warrant. So yes, sometimes it IS a choice, so maybe we deserve what we get. After last night, however, I might end up making the same choice next year. It’s hard to see how this is a truly effective form of government.

8 Tasha April 16, 2016 at 6:57 PM

A few comments on medical marijuana… It’s not holistic. It’s a drug that has not been well studied so there are few peer reviewed scientific studies on this drug. Much of what its purported to do is based on sharing of personal experience. There is no reason that this drug can’t be studied and clear understanding of the benefits and the risks be defined.
The problem is that most medical marijuana is used not by folks who legitimately benefit for medical reasons, it’s used by people for recreational use. There is much data in this so no disputing.
Regarding not having it near the schools, why have an unknown business with a drug in the form of candy and brownies and a business with large amounts of cash near? You wouldn’t have a nuclear waste facility, a prison, or any other business that could put children at risk. We just don’t have any experience with medical marijuana facilities.
Of note, and this was never clearly detailed, anyone with a medical marijuana license can order online and have it delivered to their homes in all forms. There is not an issue accessing this drug for patients.
The biggest most important fact that everyone conveniently overlooked or never spoke about was how much money these dispensaries will be making. Millions of dollars a year of revenue will be generated by selling marijuana. That is why the companies that want to sell it are fighting so hard. It’s a land grab right now with many companies trying to establish dominance and many locations. These are not people who are setting up shop to help cancer patients!!! No way!!! Open your eyes, it’s all about green…money!! Which is why the town is all hot and heavy into these dispensaries too.
Finally, regarding town meeting, you have to show up and vote or what you think doesn’t matter. We all work and have kids and dogs and serious illnesses and aging parents and are flat out tired, but we show up to the meetings. All of them, not just Town. It’s a lot of work and effort but someone has to do it. And I guess the someones that don’t get to complain.

9 DJD66 April 16, 2016 at 10:54 PM

Tasha – I could not agree more. Anyone that thinks this business wants to sell marijuana simpley to people who use it for pain management,… You must have smoked a ton of weed! This is about MONEY and nothing else. Quite honestly, I am not sure what the big deal is about the new buffer zone – it’s an additional 500 feet. Why would anyone be against that?

10 M April 18, 2016 at 10:36 AM

Heather, Well said. Your response is an excellent example of what we missed by not allowing others to speak on the issue.

I urge everyone to carefully consider your vote regarding a new Moderator. It is obviously a position requiring knowledge, objectivity, and stamina. We have three candidates.

11 M April 18, 2016 at 10:54 AM

Tasha: Marijuana has been around a very long time. Thomas Jefferson grew it on his farm and praised its use. You can research his “sharing of personal experience”. State after state in the USA has studied the medical use before presenting it for legislation. Drug companies want to take away the current sales model and control it for their own profit, which complicates the “money” side of this issue. Yes, the money side for Southborough’s benefit was not discussed. Marijuana for non-medicinal uses is undergoing review because of the large incarceration rates. Some studies find it less harmful than alcohol, but there is disagreemnt, and there always will be, just as we disagree on gambling. But debate on all of the pros and cons would have taken another evening at least. This was not the point of the Article presented. It was geared to changing zoning laws to move it away from schools or a specific neighborhood.
DJD: All of the issues surrounding use and sale are greatly debated every day. Please stop assuming Southborough citizens are ignorant on the issue or high on weed.

12 djd66 April 18, 2016 at 9:15 PM

M – My comment was pointed to all the people that keep saying that marijuana sales are solely for pain management. Look at all the states that currently sell marijuana – most of it is not for pain management. Maybe in 5 years when the sale of this drug is more prevalent I may feel differently, until then I say it does nothing for the quality of life in SoBo.

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