State’s Pace Delaying Use of Recreational Pot in Cities & Towns
FAIRHAVEN — It has been 587 days since Massachusetts voted to legalize the use and sale of recreational marijuana. The first pot shops in the state will be legally allowed to open their doors for business on July 1, less than two weeks from now.
However, the state has yet to issue a single retail recreational marijuana license since the Cannabis Control Commission began reviewing applications for licenses on April 1, and it’s expected that pot shops won’t be opening in cities and towns across the commonwealth as soon as anticipated. Another issue facing local government in the Bay State is the lack guidance on the laws and regulations drafted on Beacon Hill to govern the recreational marijuana business.
The slow movement by Beacon Hill has caused municipalities across Massachusetts to delay enacting local legislation on the recreational marijuana business. Quite simply, if cities and towns enact local laws and regulations surrounding the retail sale and recreational use of marijuana without any idea of how the Commonwealth will govern it, they run the risk of violating state law in the future.
The impact of the pace taken by the state to implement recreational marijuana law can be seen locally in towns like Fairhaven.
On Monday, the Fairhaven Board of Selectmen had scheduled to discuss the regulations for the retail recreational marijuana business in the town once state licenses are finally issued out. Little came from the brief segment of the rather lengthy meeting, and the board took no action. Instead, the board was presented an outline of the different rules the different boards would put into play by Director of Planning and Economic Development Gloria McPherson.
McPherson says that the Select Board may want to potentially consider limiting certain uses, while the Planning Board will handle limitations on more of the time, place, and manner of the use of marijuana. McPherson also says that an outstanding issue for the town surrounds drug testing in the workplace with regards to marijuana, which she says the state has also not provided much guidance on.
One of the most important questions facing towns, McPherson says, is the issue of on-site consumption or so-called “marijuana cafes” that allow the social-consumption of marijuana at private establishments. She says that the state won’t be drafting regulations for on-site consumption until February 19, and adds that it “makes it hell for us” with the town’s moratorium in effect until the end of December.
“I think that it’s one of the things that people who voted for recreational marijuana are taken aback by. I think a lot of towns when they approved the recreational use of marijuana by adults were thinking ‘oh, it’d be nice to light up in my home and have a relaxing evening after a long day of work,’ but actually the real issue is about places that want people to be able to eat on-site or smoke on-site and what the regulations are for that,” McPherson explained. “The only way to have that right now is by petition ballot and the Cannabis Control Commission is going to come out with additional regulations in February, which of course doesn’t help towns with a moratorium that expires in December.”