Council Votes on Recreational Marijuana Moratorium, Sales Tax
NEW BEDFORD — If you've been looking forward to buying recreational marijuana in New Bedford, you may want to put away your rolling papers for just a bit longer.
In a 10-1 vote on Thursday, the City Council has decided to adopt a temporary moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments in New Bedford until September 30. The Ordinance Committee recommended the moratorium to the council.
The six-month moratorium will allow Mayor Jon Mitchell and City Councillors to draft local legislation for zoning and operations of the industry across the city.
Councillor At-Large Deborah Coelho submitted the only vote against the temporary ban and claims that she's been against allowing the recreational use of marijuana from the get-go. Coelho also cites the state's procedures as a reason for not voting for the temporary moratorium.
“There's too much happening and a lot of oversight coming from the state that interferes with us here locally,” said Coelho. “I know there's a small percentage out there that feel the same way and I'd like to think that they have their representation here as well.”
Coelho does however defend the use and sale of medical marijuana, saying, “If it's medical, it's medical. I'm fine and comfortable with that, as we all should be. For recreational marijuana I've been opposed from the beginning.”
The council voted on February 8 to refer a moratorium to a second reading at the state level as well as the city Planning Board and Ordinance Committee for review. Following the February hearing, Ward Six Councillor Joe Lopes said that he doubted that it would go past August.
Lopes says that since then, the state has “changed the guidelines on how they're implementing everything,” which resulted in the decision to extend the state-wide moratorium to April 1.
“The problem is that without knowing what the state guidelines were going to be it was hard for the City to draft things in advance of that,” Lopes explained. “What we're doing is a six month moratorium that will allow the City Council, the Administration, and the committee that I established last year - the Recreational Marijuana and Cultivation Committee, to draft everything that needs to be done for zoning and placement of these operations across the city.”
In another 10-1 vote, the council also has decided to work with the Mitchell Administration in placing a three-percent sales tax on recreational marijuana. The tax would apply to the sale or transfer of marijuana or marijuana products by a retailer operating in the city. Ward Four Councillor Dana Rebeiro provided the only vote against the motion.
“Realistically there are projections of revenue that are going to come in relating to the people who are going to buy recreational marijuana and paraphernalia associated with it," Lopes said. "Whatever that total number at the end of the year is, or quarterly, there's going to be a percentage that I'd like to see allocated out to the OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) trust fund.”
As part of the vote, the motion will be sent to the Finance Committee to work with the Mayor on establishing the tax.
At the beginning of the meeting, City Council President Linda Morad called for a moment of silence to honor the life of the late Yarmouth Police Officer and New Bedford native Sean Gannon, who was killed while serving an arrest warrant in Yarmouth earlier this month.