By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Hudson – As some neighboring communities impose bans and moratoriums, selectmen discussed a range of actions they could take to regulate the soon-to-be legalized sale of recreational marijuana in Hudson at their Aug. 28 meeting.
Selectmen considered options including imposing a temporary moratorium on sales of the drug until town officials can review state regulations set to be released in March 2018. Likewise, they also discussed the possibility of enacting a permanent ban on sales. The board decided not to pursue such a permanent ban, and shied away from the prospect of imposing a moratorium in the near future, instead agreeing to begin preparing regulatory items to be voted on at next May’s Town Meeting.
“We voted on it; we accepted it,” said Selectman Scott Duplisea of the town’s support of legalization last November. “Now my job is to come up with zoning and regulations. I have no desire at this point to change how the town voted on the ballot.”
Consumption of recreational marijuana for those over the age of 21 has been legal in Massachusetts since December after residents voted in favor of a legalization ballot question in last November’s election. Its sale, however, will not be legal until at least the spring of 2018 as the state continues to formalize regulations and assemble a regulatory board to oversee the industry.
Already, however, opponents and entire communities have taken action to heavily regulate the sale of recreational marijuana.
Officials and voters in Westborough successfully opted out of legalization earlier this year. There will now be no recreational marijuana shops there.
Likewise, Shrewsbury and Northborough have each enacted temporary moratoriums, delaying the opening of any possible recreational marijuana shops until after the moratoriums lapse. Earlier this summer, Marlborough also began exploring the possibility of enacting a similar moratorium.
In Hudson, however, where the ballot question which legalized recreational marijuana passed by a margin of roughly 52 percent to 48 percent, officials have not been so quick to propose outright moratoriums.
Instead, selectmen decided at their Aug. 28 meeting to work through the winter and spring to produce a zoning ordinance that would keep any recreational marijuana stores out of what they note to be the busy, “family friendly” downtown area.
The town has already zoned two areas outside of downtown for medical marijuana dispensaries. Selectmen noted that recreational marijuana zoning could mirror at least some of that existing zoning.
Selectmen said they plan to submit a recreational marijuana zoning item to be voted on by the public at next May’s Town Meeting.
As they approach the topic of regulating this newly legalized drug through items like the one they plan to submit in the spring, selectmen like Chair John Parent are hoping to follow the decision voters made in November while protecting the town’s other interests.
“I would like to see the zoning remain in the area that it already is,” Parent said. “I do not want to wake up one morning and find out that it’s [marijuana shops] in downtown Hudson.”