MA: Mansfield Town Meeting To Take Up Marijuana Issue

Photo Credit: Ryan Ademan

Whatever else voters may debate at the May 15 annual town meeting, there seems likely to be plenty of talk about marijuana.

Since the state legalized recreational as well as medical forms of marijuana, citizens and town officials have been exploring various ways of accommodating retail cultivation and sale of the drug. The town has already approved a medical marijuana facility, however that project has been held up by an appeal.

On May 15, voters will get a chance to vote on articles that would establish overlay districts within the town where recreational marijuana cultivation and retail sale would be allowed.

At the same time, two petition articles brought by citizens would prohibit any form of recreational marijuana businesses in town. The proposals would not affect medical marijuana uses or have any impact on personal use or cultivation of marijuana.

Under state law, Mansfield would be limited to a single recreational marijuana cultivation and one recreational marijuana retail location.

Massachusetts voters approved legalization of recreational marijuana in 2016. The referendum passed by a small majority in Mansfield.

However, a state commission took until earlier this month to recommend final rules for cultivation and sale. Actual retail and growing operations are expected to begin later this year.

Mansfield, as well as many other Massachusetts communities, imposed a moratorium on such businesses until rules were clarified. Town officials earlier this year discussed the possibility of extending the moratorium, which is due to expire in November, if needed.

One town meeting proposal brought forth by the planning board would amend the zoning bylaw to create a marijuana cultivation overlay district in the planned business zoning district along Route 140 in the southwest of town including the Forbes Boulevard and Plymouth Street areas.

Marijuana cultivation would be allowed in that district only with a special permit.

A second article would establish a Route 140 retail recreational marijuana overlay district, also in the Route 140 industrial zone, where marijuana could be sold only with a special permit.

Special permits would have to be obtained from the planning board. Either or both of the proposals, if passed, would also require approval at a referendum, according to Town Planner Shaun Burke.

A separate article would allow the town to levy a local sales tax on marijuana transactions.

Not everyone appears to be fine with allowing recreational marijuana businesses in Mansfield, however.

Allen Bryer, who ran as a selectman candidate in the November town election, and 10 other residents have filed petition articles that would ban retail sale, cultivation and other business uses of marijuana in town.

The ban would become effective if approved by voters at a subsequent referendum.

Bryer said the proposal to ban marijuana businesses isn’t necessarily based on antipathy to marijuana itself.

“I can’t speak for others but for myself I cannot stress enough that these articles are more about democracy than marijuana,” he wrote in an email.

“I actually have a very complex and comprehensive position on cannabis that isn’t aligned with either extreme found on the issue.

“Given the ups and downs of the roll out I came to the conclusion that Mansfield should make a statement on the issue with a very clear exclamation point one way or the other.”