MARIJUANA

A marijuana leaf

Last November, Massachusetts voted to pass Proposition 4, which legalized recreational marijuana use in the state. But if the town has its way, residents will need to go elsewhere if they want to purchase marijuana for private consumption.

Town officials already have a proposal for an 18-month moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses in Foxboro on the warrant for this year's annual town meeting in May. Foxboro Town Manager Bill Keegan said that the clock on such a moratorium would begin following its approval by the Massachusetts attorney general's office, should it be passed by town meeting.

Without a moratorium, recreational marijuana establishments are set to be able to apply for licensing on July 1 of next year.

And at Tuesday's meeting of the board of selectmen, passing a permanent ban through a ballot question was discussed.

Town Planner Paige Duncan laid out the more dramatic option that Foxboro has going forward in crafting its marijuana policy.

Duncan noted that because Proposition 4 didn't go through the normal legislative process, there's still a lot about it that's subject to interpretation.

"The law was written by the industry, not by lawmakers," said Duncan.

She said that she'd recently attended a seminar on the topic of how municipalities can implement the new law. At that seminar, a strategy that communities such as Westboro and Stoughton are pursuing was discussed: Banning recreational marijuana establishments via a town-wide vote.

"We have the opportunity to do that," she said.

Such a vote could be taken at Foxboro's May 1 town election.

Duncan noted that Foxboro was one of the communities in the state that didn't vote to approve Question 4. She also said that this ban wouldn't affect medical marijuana, nor would it affect the ability of private citizens to home-grow and possess and use marijuana in accordance with the new law.

"This would be similar to a town banning the sale of alcohol," said Selectman Ginny Coppola, whose characterization of the ban was confirmed by Duncan.

However, whether or not such a ban is even legal is not yet clear, given the wording of the law.

"A lot of terms were used that aren't customary terms," said Duncan.

Moreover, she noted that Foxboro's vote against Proposition 4 was a close one, and that the dynamics of town elections are different than general elections in presidential years.

"A local election will see far fewer voters show up," said Duncan.

She also said that the fate of any such ban at the ballot box is no certainty.

"I don't know what the people think," she said. "It's really up to the people."

Should the ballot measure pass, a complimentary zoning law would also have to be passed by town meeting.

Duncan said that the town has the time to flesh its marijuana strategy out and the selectmen agreed, choosing to table the discussion so that more could be learned.

"I have my files on marijuana," said Duncan. "I never thought I'd see the day."

It was indicated at the meeting that Board of Selectmen Chairman David Feldman had asked Duncan to look at Foxboro's options on marijuana so that Foxboro will be able to chart its own course on the matter.

"I think it warrants further discussion," said Feldman.

For her part, Coppola seemed fairly bullish on the prospect of excluding recreational marijuana establishments from town.

"Nip it in the bud," she said.