Letter: What, retail weed stores can go anywhere in Westport?

Posted 5/29/21

What, retail weed stores can go anywhere in Westport?

To the editor:

Yes, that’s right, marijuana businesses can go anywhere there is a business district.  Why? Because we are …

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Letter: What, retail weed stores can go anywhere in Westport?

Posted

What, retail weed stores can go anywhere in Westport?

To the editor:

Yes, that’s right, marijuana businesses can go anywhere there is a business district.  Why? Because we are operating under a Zoning Bylaw that the pot promoters and store owners snuck onto the backside of a special Town Meeting held in February of 2020. 

At the end of that meeting, when fewer than 100 people remained, they overturned several previous town votes limiting this activity, including a 2018 Prohibition ballot question on a town-wide election.  With this maneuver they passed the regulation under which we are still operating today.  All completely legal but not very respectful of the intentions expressed multiple times by the voters.  

The vote last October to completely prohibit non-medical marijuana stores, which passed by an overwhelming majority, was a simple bylaw, not a zoning bylaw.  Unfortunately, the state Attorney General ruled this to be insufficient to overtake the zoning bylaw that the pro-marijuana folks created a year and a half earlier. 

Please consider helping put an end to this usurpation of voter discretion by attending our annual Town Meeting at 9 am on Saturday, June 5.  It will be at the high school and several important questions related to recreational marijuana stores will be decided at this meeting.  What will be different about this vote and will we continue to be tortured by moneyed special interests tenaciously pursuing their objectives at subsequent Town Meetings? Hopefully not as the Zoning Bylaws being presented to the voters will require a 2/3’s majority to pass.  This makes it harder to pass and harder to overturn.  This is why your vote, or at the very least one vote from your household, is needed on Saturday. 

There will be essentially four questions on this subject at the meeting.  The full text of all the Town Meeting Warrant Articles can be found at https://www.westport-ma.com/sites/g/files/vyhlif1441/f/uploads/2021_atm_warrant_rev_3_4_1_21.pdf but I have paraphrased and to be fair, opined upon them here for your reference.

Question #21 - Should the town adopt its own regulation for medical and non-medical marijuana stores instead of operating under the pot store owner’s rules instituted back in the winter of 2020?  The town’s Planning Board has written these new regulations as should be the case with any significant regulation for our town.  These rules limit the number of stores to two and they can only be located in specific commercial areas on parts of route 6.  Not a perfect situation but much better than having an unknown number of operations located in any business district.  The answer to this question needs to be an overwhelming YES.   Help us take back control and inject some sanity into the regulatory process. 

Question #22 - Should the town go further and fully prohibit recreational marijuana sales — as we have done four times now?  I say YES… again.  Send a message that we won’t be pushed into something against our will.  Moreover, as the Select Board and Finance Committee has indicated, the money generated by these businesses will be eaten up by increased public safety expenditures or be fleeting at best.  More on this under #23 below.

Question #23 - If we vote yes on #22 and go back to recreational prohibition, should we grant special “grandfathering” rights to the one medical marijuana facility that has almost, repeat almost, been permitted for recreational sales as of today?  I say NO, this would basically grant a government sponsored monopoly to the very people who have so cleverly gamed the system and repeatedly ignored the will of the voters in their pursuit of profits.  The Select Board, of which I was a member, unanimously granted these folks approval for their medical operation and they assured us at that time that they did not need the recreational piece to make their business model work.  I say show us that you can operate the medical store without issues and come back to a regular, Annual Town Meeting in a couple of years, in the full light of day, and transparently persuade the voters to give recreational pot a chance.

Question #24 – Again, if we pass #22, there is some clean-up of the medical marijuana regulations that needs to be addressed.  This regulation is identical to that of Question #21 but it applies to medical marijuana stores and no business, existing or proposed, is negatively affected.  This is an easy but important YES.

There will also be a question brought forth on the sales tax for recreational marijuana sometime during the meeting.  Apparently when the pot proponents changed the rules in 2020, they… overlooked… the need to institute this into our regulations.  This is another indication that we should not be outsourcing the writing of our regulations.

Thank you for your interest in this complicated subject and I hope you will take the time to attend this very important meeting on Saturday.  As of this writing the Town Moderator has decided to move the meeting indoors so inclement weather should not be an issue.  We are assured that sufficient precautions will be taken to keep the meeting safe and in compliance with public health guidelines.

R. Michael Sullivan

Former Westport Select Board member and chairman

Westport

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