Fairhaven Holds Public Forum On Local Marijuana Regulation
FAIRHAVEN — With the state's Cannabis Control Commission to begin accepting applications for licenses to operate marijuana businesses in April, the Fairhaven Board of Selectmen opened the discussion to area residents on Monday night in an effort get a sense of what regulations should be imposed on the industry in the town.
Town Counsel Tom Carney led roughly 30 people in the auditorium of the Fairhaven Town Hall through the different retail, cultivation, and recreational possibilities the state has legalized, as well as what the town can do to prevent them, if at all.
“We have a lot of decisions that have to be made about whether the town is going to try and regulate the sale of marijuana for recreational use, and we're trying to get some public input tonight to see what folks thought about that,” Carney explained. “Now we have our work to do to see what goes on the ballot, what goes to town meeting, and where it goes from there.”
Those attending the forum were given a handout featuring a list of 10 different types of marijuana facilities that could function in the town. They were asked to provide a "Yes" or "No" answer as to whether the town should prohibit or limit the number of each of the facilities, listed as follows:
- Marijuana Cultivation - grows marijuana plants (Yes/No)
- Craft marijuana cooperatives - cultivates, manufactures, packages, and delivers products to retailers (Yes/No)
- Marijuana product manufacturer - manufactures and delivers products to retailers (Yes/No)
- Independent testing labs - tests product contents (Yes/No)
- Marijuana retailer - distributes and sells to consumers (Yes/No)
- Transportation license - delivers to retailers (Yes/No)
- Social consumption, primary use - more than 50% of revenue from cannabis, effectively, marijuana cafes (Yes/No)
- Social consumption, mixed use - less than 50% of revenue from cannabis which would probably be restaurants, coffee shops, bars (Yes/No)
- Micro business - cultivates, manufactures, and delivers in small quantities (Yes/No)
- Marijuana research facility - studies marijuana use (Yes/No)
Despite the initiative to get a feel for what residents of the town wish to allow or prohibit regarding the recreational use and sale of cannabis, the majority of the forum turned into a general discussion surrounding the ethical pros and cons of marijuana.
“I think that the problem we have tonight is that people are being asked to make decisions without any information,” Dr. Barbara Acksan, a licensed psychologist said. “Public health is about educating people and helping them make a decision. The people had a lot of questions and concerns, but they didn't have any data to base it on except maybe their individual experiences, which were either really good or really bad.”
Acksan went on to suggest that the Board establish a public information effort to offer fair and balanced insight as to how allowing or prohibiting certain aspects of marijuana use in the town will affect its residents.
“I think they need to have a public information kind of effort to educate people so they have more to go on than just their own experience,” Acksan said. “Everyone is concerned about kids doing any kind of drugs all the time, but if you don't regulate it then kids are going to do it anyways and there will still be a problem there. This is not an easy issue, it's a complicated issue.”
The handout also featured questions for the public surrounding the medical marijuana industry, and the licensed medical marijuana facility currently in town, broken down into the following two questions:
-Should the Town try to prevent or regulate the conversion of the current licensed medical marijuana facility into a recreational cultivation and sales facility? (Yes/No)
-Should the Town establish zones for the various types of marijuana facilities? (Yes/No)
Hans Doherty, an employee of 'Growing In Health,' a home health agency based out of New Bedford, that focuses on the medical use of marijuana to help people with chronic pain and other illness, spoke out against prohibiting medical marijuana cultivation. Doherty says the company's delivery of the products to elderly or extremely sick patients could be affected by how Fairhaven votes on marijuana regulation.
“Every week I see new patients that are finding real relief via the use of medical cannabis,” Doherty said. “Everything from insomnia, PTSD, much more serious health issues like Crohn's Disease, and obviously cancer and epilepsy, things like that. I'm a big proponent and I think Fairhaven should take advantage of it.”
The Board of Selectmen says the deadline for submitting a question for the ballot on the matter is Feb. 23, and that a hearing for the zoning of marijuana facilities is scheduled for the first week of March. The Board also says the topic will go to the Town Meeting set for April 5.