MA: Natick Weighing Its Options On Recreational Marijuana

Photo Credit: Henry Schwan

With the state issuing its first recreational marijuana license, Natick is trying to determine how to regulate the sale of retail pot within its borders.

Selectmen hosted a forum on Thursday at Natick High School to hear from residents on how they feel about recreational marijuana.

The board voted 4-1 in January to establish “reasonable regulations” to control retail marijuana establishments, should they come to town. Last fall, Town Meeting approved a moratorium on those establishments to give officials time to establish local regulations. It expires at end of this year.

Hours before Thursday’s forum, the state Cannabis Control Commission issued a license to Sira Naturals of Milford to grow pot – but not to sell it. It’s the first recreational marijuana business license issued by the commission since Massachusetts voters approved Question 4 in November 2016 to legalize recreational marijuana.

Question 4 was supported by 54 percent of Natick voters. The final count was 10,674–9,067.

Selectmen will discuss comments they heard at Thursday’s forum when they meet Monday. When asked if the board could move away from “reasonable regulations” and toward a possible ban on retail establishments, board Chairwoman Amy Mistrot responded that any policy “should reflect the values of the community.”

State law allows communities that supported Question 4 to opt out of retail establishments, but only by both a vote at Town Meeting and another at the ballot box.

A majority of the few dozen residents at Thursday’s forum who spoke with the Daily News said they don’t want recreational marijuana in Natick.

“I have no problem with people using marijuana in their own home, but we don’t need a retail facility in town,” Phil Miller said.

Miller’s son Bryce is a student at Natick High School, and said he’s seen students smoking pot in school bathrooms.

“Marijuana is disgusting, and I don’t want retail stores,” Bryce Miller said. “We could have more kids smoking in the bathroom doing disgusting marijuana stuff.”

One resident who didn’t give her name said she supported retail pot, because it hasn’t been proven to be addictive and is less harmful than alcohol.

Some comments during the forum touched on Natick’s moratorium, and the concern that local regulations must be in place by the end of the year.

Resident Sue Abendroth has lived in Natick for 16 years, and said she worries residents didn’t think through the repercussions of retail pot when they approved Question 4.

“Citizens need to be able to understand what the issues are,” Abendroth said.

Natick could release a draft of local pot regulations in the coming weeks, according to Jamie Errickson, Natick’s director of Community and Economic Development. They will be reviewed by local boards and committees. If they come before Town Meeting in the fall, voters will make the final call.

However, judging by an exchange at Thursday night’s forum, a move to ban recreational pot in Natick is a possibility.

Phil Miller’s wife, Shirley, told those in attendance that she has worked in substance abuse facilities, and knows first-hand the dangers of drug addiction. She worries marijuana could take smokers down that path, and she expressed concern that Natick residents don’t fully understand the dangers of marijuana.

Mistrot then asked Miller if there’s still a decision to be made on how Natick moves forward on recreational marijuana.

“Yes” was Miller’s answer.