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Town asked to limit pot shops to one

  • Resident Cassie Foley urges Phillipston’s Select Board to work toward limiting the number of marijuana retailers in town to a single establishment. State law requires the town, whose voters supported the 2016 ballot question legalizing pot in Massachusetts, to allow for at least one such facility. Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 6/10/2019 9:55:20 PM
Modified: 6/10/2019 9:55:16 PM

PHILLIPSTON – Because a majority of Phillipston voters cast ballots in favor of the 2016 statewide ballot question which legalized recreational marijuana sales in Massachusetts, the town is committed to allowing a number of cannabis retailers equal to 20 percent of the number of liquor licenses currently in effect in the community. Because there are so few such licenses, the number of pot stores the town must allow, rounded up to the nearest whole number, is exactly one.

Still, while at least one adult use marijuana retailer must be allowed to open in Phillipston, there’s nothing on the books that would prohibit town officials from approving more than a single cannabis license. Speaking at last week’s meeting of the Select Board, resident Cassie Foley asked members to formally set the number of pot retailers allowed in town to a single operator.

“I’ve been working in the youth substance abuse field for over 10 years,” Foley told the board. “It’s something I’m really passionate about, but I want to make clear that I’m here on my own personal time, not on work time.”

“What I wanted to have a conversation about,” she said, “is limiting the number of retail (cannabis) shops here in town. A few of the surrounding towns have gone forward to do so, but we have not done that yet.”

Foley gave board members a copy of the “Statement of Concern” recently released by the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance.

“It talks a lot about the dangers of marijuana-use on adolescent brains,” said Foley, “and what having these retail shops in our communities can do. What we’ve seen time and again, according to research, is that the more outlets in our neighborhoods, the more likely teens are to use drugs and alcohol. We’ve seen it happen with tobacco. We’ve seen it happen with alcohol. So, it’s pretty fair to predict that it probably won’t be any different with marijuana.”

Foley said both Gardner and Athol have voted to limit the number of marijuana retailers strictly to the required 20 percent of liquor licenses. While required by law to allow for at least two such establishments, voters in Winchendon last year approved expanding the cap to allow for three pot shops.

“I would like to request tonight that the town of Phillipston write an article for the town meeting in October to limit the number of retail shops to one,” said Foley.

“I can’t foresee more than one,” said board member Terry Dymek. “Practically speaking, the first one that gets in – that’s it.”

“The way the bylaw is written,” said board Chair Kim Pratt, “there’s not a whole lot of room for more than one because it has to be on (Route) 2A. There’s not a whole lot of space available.”

Voters recently enacted zoning regulations that limit the establishment of both retail and medical marijuana facilities to the Route 2A corridor through town.

Board members said they would take Foley’s request under advisement.

After Foley’s presentation, Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Flynn gave the board a draft of potential wording for a host community agreement, which any marijuana merchant – medical or recreational – would have to sign in order to set up shop in Phillipston.

The agreement would require any cannabis retailer to commit to paying a “community impact fee” to the town to help mitigate additional expenses that might result from increased police activity, and greater demand on the town’s inspectional, permitting, and administrative services.

It also commits the retailer to the payment of taxes equal to three percent of the business’s gross revenue. Such payments would be made quarterly.

The retailer would also be required to contribute no less than $10,000 a year to “marijuana education and prevention programs to promote safe, legal, and responsible use.”

The board decided to have the draft agreement reviewed by the town’s law firm before considering approval of the document.

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