By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Hudson – Town officials have appealed to the community for help regulating potential recreational marijuana dispensaries in Hudson. Residents and local business representatives responded with mixed feelings during a listening session Dec. 13.
Having voted in favor of legalization on last year’s ballot question, officials said Hudson has four options for regulation. The town can allow dispensaries to open anywhere currently zoned for commercial use. Conversely, Hudson can ban dispensaries outright with an affirmative vote both at Town Meeting and on a ballot question. Finally, it can restrict recreational marijuana sales to an existing medical marijuana district near Highland Commons, or, it can create a recreational marijuana district with new boundaries. Either way, any zoning bylaws would have to pass at next year’s May Town Meeting.
“[What we do] is kind of to be determined,” said Selectman John Parent. “This [listening session] is one more way of helping to do the right thing.”
Prior to the session, most of the town’s discussions of constituent opinions on the issue centered on last year’s ballot question. With new feedback in hand, however, selectmen discussed the opinions gathered at the listening session at their Dec. 18 meeting.
Included in that feedback were the words of Dale Gunn, who advocated a ban on dispensaries in town.
“It’s a dangerous mind-altering substance and I’m just opposed to it,” he said of marijuana. “I don’t think there’s any valid use for it.”
Gunn noted the death of Massachusetts State Trooper Thomas Clardy in 2016 as a local example of the dangers of marijuana use. Clardy, a Hudson resident, died after a driver, who, according to authorities, was high on marijuana, struck Clardy’s cruiser during a highway traffic stop.
If the outright ban would fail, Gunn said he would settle for a bylaw restricting dispensaries to the existing medical marijuana district. Many in attendance shared the latter opinion, hoping to see the town regulate cautiously.
“Let’s limit it now,” said Andy Massa. “Let’s get some experience, and see where it takes us as opposed to letting it go wide open.”
Several representatives of local businesses in attendance, however, advocated broader zoning, particularly to allow for marijuana growing facilities at and around Kane Industrial Park.
“Since there’s no schools and no real residential areas within a certain distance, I think that it might be wise to look at that as an option in the first bylaw to make it available,” said a member of Kane’s Board of Trustees.
Hudson officials will hear from constituents at another listening session scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 13. Selectmen then plan to draft a bylaw and submit it to be voted on at the May Town Meeting.
In the meantime, Hudson already has a medical marijuana dispensary under construction. Temescal Wellness obtained a permit in April to open a dispensary on Coolidge Street. A company representative further indicated during the listening session that Temescal now hopes to obtain permits to also sell marijuana for recreational purposes at that location.
Massachusetts voted to legalize recreational marijuana in November 2016. Since setting up a “Cannabis Commission” to regulate the new industry, the state has said it will allow dispensaries to open in July 2018. Many area municipalities, including Westborough, Shrewsbury and Northborough, have all either banned marijuana or enacted moratoriums delaying its legal sale.