marijuana pipe

Attleboro area communities back medical marijuana. Recreational marijuana, not so much.

Several towns have voted to ban recreational marijuana businesses from opening up shop in their communities. Or at least implementing moratoriums until the state comes out with regulations for such businesses. Other communities are considering taking one of the two actions, including Attleboro, North Attleboro and Plainville.

Residents at town meetings in Norton, Mansfield, Rehoboth and Seekonk have supported moratoriums on recreational marijuana businesses.

But in Foxboro, Wrentham and Norfolk, residents decided to outlaw recreational pot establishments.

“It would prevent the sale of marijuana in convenience stores and other establishments,” Wrentham Selectman Charles Kennedy said.

Only sale, distribution or cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes would be allowed.

That is also the case in Norfolk as voters there also voted a ban on recreational marijuana businesses, residents worried about the affect on youths and tarnishing downtown, among other concerns.

“We’re in the middle of an opioid crisis. This will put fuel on the fire,” said state Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk.

Wrentham, Foxboro and Norfolk voters narrowly had opposed legalization of pot at the November 2016 election. Communities that voted against legalization can vote to ban recreational marijuana busineses at town meetings, but those whose voters backed legalization have to go again to the ballot box to stop the businesses. The latter hasn’t had to be the case for area communities so far.

Personal recreational marijuana use is another matter and was legalized by 54 percent of state voters approving the ballot question. That was about the backing in the Attleboro area as well.

As a result, it is legal for people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of pot on their person and up to 10 ounces at home. In addition, people are able to cultivate up to six marijuana plants for their own use.

So for towns and cities that ban sales, residents in those communities can use pot legally but would have to buy it elsewhere.

Attleboro city councilors plan to tackle the recreational marijuana issue but have not yet.

Meanwhile, medicinal marijuana operations seem to be being proposed left and right in the city. Medicinal pot businesses were authorized by voters before last November.

City councilors have approved a special permit for Bristol County Wellness Center to open a retail shop and growing facility in a former jewelry factory in Attleboro Industrial Park. Attleboro could reap about $1 million in revenue for the first three years of the business’s operation, and that doesn’t include property taxes.

Also, the city council has voted to give preliminary support for another such business, an indoor medical marijuana growing facility that would be located in a warehouse, also in the industrial park. It would not include a retail store.

Yet a third registered marijuana dispensary is also looking for city backing.

Sales of marijuana can be a boon for cities and towns and the state. Sales of pot would be taxed at the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax rate, plus a 10.75 percent excise tax. Local communities can add another 3 percent and extract an additional 3 percent of sales through user agreements with retailers.

In North Attleboro, an article up for the Jan. 22 town meeting would establish a temporary moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments.

Town officials have said they’re seeking the moratorium not to halt the will of the voters, as North Attleboro voters approved the ballot question legalizing marijuana last year, but because there are still several questions about the regulation of recreational marijuana that have not been explored. This will allow the town to set its own regulations such as zoning restrictions after the state regulations come out. The moratorium would be in effect until Dec. 31, 2018.

Over in neighboring Plainville, selectmen have discussed recreational marijuana at their last few meetings and have opted to wait until the state regulations come out, tentatively in March, before making any decisions, Town Administrator Jennifer Thompson said.

The town has a moratorium in place for recreational marijuana facilities until June 30, 2018 that was voted at the June annual town meeting. Selectmen had been considering taking more action at the next annual town meeting, possibly to extend the moratorium to the end of next December.

However, decisions coming from the state Cannabis Control Commission last week have disrupted those plans.

“By allowing establishments such as bars, restaurants, yoga studios and massage parlors being allowed licenses to dispense marijuana, it really changes the dynamic in my opinion,” Selectmen Chairman Rob Rose said. “We may be going in a different direction due to this new liberalization. People who may have been more inclined to allow recreational marijuana, may not anymore.”

Stephen Peterson can be reached at 508-236-0377.

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