MA: Somerset Voters Pass Recreational Marijuana Law, Rezoning For Pot Facility

Photo Credit: Richard Vogel

It could go down as the night Somerset voters took medical and recreational marijuana into their own hands by approving a pair of zoning bylaws.

Unrelated to each other, but both on the subject of marijuana, the second of two votes, which could allow a growing and dispensary facility on 6.7 acres of 1400 Brayton Point Road, passed by nine votes.

It was 159 in favor and 55 opposed, with two thirds — or 150 votes — needed to rezone the parcel opposite Somerset Subaru and a stone’s throw from Route 6 from business to industrial at Monday night’s special Town Meeting.

Nonprofit Solar Therapeutics Inc. of Quincy recently announced plans to lease the parcel that could house a medical marijuana plant in an industrial zone.

Its Fall River attorney Thomas Killoran roughly doubled the revenues and taxes to the town the company had estimated, to upwards of $500,000 a year.

When a town lawyer, Steven Sabra, asked them to commit to growing and dispensing medical marijuana only, Killoran said, “Unfortunately, Solar Therapeutics can’t commit to that. I cannot tell you they will be restricted to medical marijuana.”

On the cusp of state law allowing applications for legalized recreational marijuana, the town had no local law in place governing where recreational marijuana might be dispensed.

That changed Monday night after selectmen, citizens and even the police chief urged passage of setting the districts to allow regulated recreational marijuana.

The zoning bylaw gives the community more control on where they could go, and bring in needed revenue, Selectmen Chairman Steven Moniz said.

When the state allows recreational marijuana applications April 1 and licensed approved shops can open July 1, it could have “effectively allowed them” in Somerset business zones, Moniz said.

He urged citizens to be “proactive.”

By a vote of 198 to 38, with 156 votes needed for passage, Somerset passed a six-page recreational bylaw with the same setbacks, restrictions and special permit needed as its medical marijuana bylaw passed in 2014.

They would be allowed in the same industrial and light industrial zones in both cases.

Standing votes passed both this zoning bylaw and the one to rezone land for Solar Therapeutics. They plan to invest $7 million under its first phase and bring about 36 jobs.

Citizens fired off diverse opinions and a dozen or more questions over roughly 45-minute discussions of each article.

They ranged on the recreational marijuana backed by selectmen from sharp criticism by regional School Committee Chairman Richard Peirce.

He claimed the board never gave citizens an opportunity to support its distribution despite the state’s legalization in November 2016 — and when a Somerset majority also voted in favor.

“Anything that makes marijuana more available to our kids is something I cannot support,” Peirce said.

That prompted Holly Haddad, of Riverside Avenue, to state: “I’m sorry if you’re not aware, but there is recreational marijuana (around) … if we can regulate it in any possible way I am for it.”

All four warrant articles passed: the ones on funding a street lighting audit and for the Lake Street pump station land taking passed unanimously without questions.