Attleboro Pot Shop

Bristol County Wellness Center planned to open a retail marijuana business in a currently vacant building at 34 Extension St. in Attleboro’s industrial park.

ATTLEBORO — Special permits needed to open marijuana businesses in Attleboro are now under the jurisdiction of the zoning board of appeals.

City councilors gave up oversight of pot shops on an 11-0 vote last week, saying the “heavy lifting” of creating regulations and ushering in the new businesses has been done.

The measure, which came through the ordinance committee headed by Diana Holmes, took effect upon passage.

Holmes recommended approval, saying, “It’s time to pass it over.”

Richard Conti agreed.

“It’s time because the council has done the heavy lifting,” he said. “A lot of work has gone into it that should have been done by the council.”

That work has left guidelines to follow, he said.

“They have precedents to follow and a very,very stringent standard to follow,” Conti said.

To date, the council has approved special permits for Bristol County Wellness Center, Ashli’s Farm, Ashli’s Inc. Ashli’s Extracts, The Leonard J. Irving Center, Briarleaf, LLC and Cannatech Medicinals.

It’s poised to issue another to Major Bloom LLC which intends to open a shop on John Williams Street in a former jewelry factory.

When the council first gave itself permitting authority in 2015, members argued that pot shops were so controversial councilors should be making the decisions.

But the businesses have stirred little controversy since applications began to come in.

Significant voter majorities at the state and local levels approved legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana, which has apparently translated into a peaceful establishment of the businesses.

However, the council kept the power last year when an ordinance to regulate both medical and recreational marijuana was approved.

At the time, some, including attorney Jack Jacobi, who represents a local marijuana business, argued that pot shops have gained acceptance and that special permit-granting authority more properly belongs to the zoning board.

He wasn’t the first.

In 2017, former council president Frank Cook and former councilor Julie Hall submitted a measure that would have transferred the power to the zoning board.

That was eventually rejected by the council.

George W. Rhodes can be reached at 508-236-0432.

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