Letter: Vote yes on outdoor pot cultivation in Williamstown

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To the editor:

On the evening of July 22, the Williamstown Planning Board held a meeting to discuss and review a number of proposals, one of which was the growing of outdoor marijuana. Discussions for and against were productive. In the end, the Planning Board voted in favor of supporting the citizens petition.

The amended petition as it is proposed allows for the outdoor growing of marijuana under significant restrictions. The allowance is extremely limited given the fact that most of the prime land in our town is under covenants such as the outdated APR, and conserved land that does not allow for this type of farming. Suitable locations to grow marijuana are less than a handful and associated soils are even more challenging.

The people of Williamstown voted in favor of growing and selling marijuana some years ago under the covenants provided by the state. Any local dispensaries must purchase Massachusetts-grown product, which establishes a proven avenue to the market place until such a time when the federal government passes legislation supporting marijuana. If and when Washington adopts legislation approving the growing of marijuana, trade across state borders will dramatically change the guaranteed local market currently in place.

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With the agrarian sector in our state so small, the state no longer supports research, forcing farmers to develop best available current technology. Two new growers in Berkshire County are underway and have, in their fledgling years, developed ways to mitigate odor. Neighbors report positive results.

In the discipline of agriculture, farmers, in order to survive must be good stewards of the soil, of the property and above all strive to be a good neighbor. Odors are now proven to be manageable and solutions are available.

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If the petition is approved, any dreaming farmer must not only go before the town's Zoning Board of Appeals, but go to Boston for an additional stringent process.

The transfer of farm land into houses will continue here and by all indications increase in the coming years. All aspects of our local agriculture are currently marginal at best. By supporting this initiative some semblance of hope could attract a younger generation hoping that as a supplement or main crop, marijuana could inspire some hope for the viability of agriculture.

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Please vote yes to adopt the citizen petition allowing outdoor cultivation of marijuana. Thank you.

Averill H. Cook,

Williamstown

The writer is a member of the Williamstown Agricultural Committee.


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