By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – The Board of Selectmen discussed options for a Special Town Meeting (STM) at their Feb. 13 meeting. The STM had been tentatively scheduled for Thursday, March 8, regarding recreational marijuana facilities in town. Options for warrant articles include: an outright ban; regulation; or to offer them both on the same warrant. The board was split and could not agree to which of the options that the STM should involve, so it was postponed. No new date has been set at this time.
Selectmen Jim Kane and Beth Casavant were in favor of holding a STM for the outright ban of recreational marijuana. The two in favor of offering a warrant with the choice of both the ban or to regulate were selectmen Moira Miller and Maurice DePalo.
Chair John Lebeaux was not in attendance and had previously recused himself from this issue because, as commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, there was a conflict of interest involving the Cannabis Control Commission. Without Lebeaux, the board was at an impasse.
Town Planner Bernie Cahill was present at the meeting and draft warrant articles were provided covering options for the board to consider. Among the articles were provisions for taxation and regulation of edibles.
Kane kicked off the discussion.
“On the matter of this issue resulting from Question 4 [Nov. 2016 Ballot Question], I think we should call a Special Town Meeting for March 8, with a warrant of one question, opting out…
“I think it’s worth noting that Question 4 failed in our town 55-45 percent which would be a landslide defeat in any race,” he added, noting that in the public hearing the opinion was overwhelming in favor of prohibition.
DePalo questioned the need to do anything right now because the town has a moratorium until Nov. 18. He is in favor of the approach to offer Town Meeting the choice to opt out or regulate (via changes to general bylaws).
“In my opinion it makes sense to move forward and let Town Meeting debate this as to whether or not to opt out of recreational marijuana in all categories…and I think it would just provide the direction of where we need to go,” Casavant said.
Miller stated that she does not support a ban based on the argument that the town of Shrewsbury was against the ballot-led initiative, suggesting that many voted against it because it was written. Since then, the legislature, with educators and public health professionals weighing in, have made changes.
After considerable back and forth and a split vote of a STM Warrant with only the opt-out option, the board postponed the STM.
Kane asked if the draft bylaws could be put on the next meeting’s agenda Tuesday, Feb. 27, and if the current versions of the draft bylaws could be recirculated so everyone is on the same page. The board was in agreement.