Recreational marijuana planning information forum set for Wednesday in New Marlborough
NEW MARLBOROUGH — The state deadline to start licensing recreational marijuana shops is quickly approaching, but public officials are still scratching their heads over what a pot shop will look like when it opens next year.
In an effort to help area municipal leaders and people who are curious, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is holding a free talk on the key recreational marijuana issues facing communities. Presented by the planning commission's Tom Matuszko, the event will begin at 6 p.m., Wednesday at the New Marlborough Town Hall.
In November of 2016, Massachusetts residents voted to approve recreational marijuana for people ages 21 and older in the state. Adults can now grow and consume marijuana, but the state is yet to start issuing licenses for weed retailers — that is expected to begin June 1, 2018. Guidelines for cities and towns about welcoming or barring marijuana from their communities has been slow to trickle out from state officials, though a first draft by the newly formed Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission is expected in December.
"We all have a lot of questions — people in town and other community offices. In general, we thought it would be a good idea to have someone from Berkshire Regional Planning come down and hopefully resolve some of them," said Sharon Fleck, the New Marlborough administrative secretary and assistant town clerk.
One of the facets of recreational marijuana that is making it difficult for communities to prepare is the way Massachusetts provides a different set of rules to communities depending on whether the majority of its citizens voted yes or no in 2016.
No-voting communities will have more power to keep marijuana out of their towns than those who approved of recreational weed. There are no municipalities in Berkshire County where the majority voted "no" on recreational marijuana, according to election records.
Matuszko did not respond to requests for comment Monday afternoon, but presentations on recreational marijuana made by the state Municipal Lawyer Association and the Massachusetts Municipal Association — two groups often sought for their counsel by municipal leaders — give an idea as to what may be on local officials' minds.
In public presentations made the two groups since September, some of the issues speakers have tackled are:
• The rights of a municipalities — those who voted to approve marijuana and those who rejected it in 2016 — when faced with the marijuana industry
• Local marijuana bylaws, if any
• On-site consumption of marijuana
• The issuance of special one-day marijuana consumption licenses for events
• Zoning restrictions
• Agricultural preservation
• Land use planning
Contact Kristin Palpini at email@example.com or @kristinpalpini on Twitter.
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