Two towns, two different outcomes on votes regarding sale of marijuana


Shrewsbury approves sale of recreational marijuana; Northborough bans recreational and medical

By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Northborough/Shrewsbury – As municipalities come to terms with the legalization of recreational marijuana this summer, they are grappling with the question of should it be allowed to be for sale in their community or not? On April 23, both Northborough and Shrewsbury voters convened to tackle that issue.

Northborough voters who attended the Annual Town Meeting at Algonquin Regional High School approved measures to ban both recreational and medical marijuana. But first, nearly 200 voters approved an article to not stop the meeting at 11 p.m. but instead “power through” the 35 other articles on the warrant so that the articles pertaining to marijuana sales could be decided that night. That meant the discussion of the articles did not start until 11:05 p.m. with a large number of voters making passionate arguments on both sides of the issue. Some stated that the town was losing out on an opportunity for more tax revenue while others claimed allowing the sale of marijuana would change the “family atmosphere” of the town. Others repeated the plea of Selectman Jason Perreault who said that recreational marijuana was still too new of an issue in the state and it would be best and “wait to see” how other towns who have approved sales handled it.

Ultimately after nearly an hour and a half of discussion, the voters approved a ban on the sale of both recreational and medical marijuana.

In Shrewsbury, a Special Town Meeting convened at Oak Middle School and voted down a ban on retail recreational marijuana establishments. Article 1 would have amended the Zoning Bylaw specifically prohibiting recreational marijuana establishments in all zoning districts by deleting the temporary moratorium on such establishments and revise zoning districts where medical marijuana dispensaries can operate.

Article 1 did not receive unanimous support from the Finance Committee but did receive the backing of the Planning Board. It was debated for well over an hour and presentations were given by David Remington who was in favor of the article. He was followed by Melisa Hollenbeck who was opposed.

Remington argued that marijuana use is against federal law and the town could face severe penalties and that the relatively small amount of tax revenue, .0016 percent increase, wasn’t worth the risk in terms of potential legal issues and hidden costs in operating retail establishments.

Hollenback’s argument was that the sale of recreational marijuana was not a moral, legal issue or health issue but an issue of “should it be sold in Shrewsbury?”   She estimated that revenue could be in the neighborhood of $360,000.

In a standing vote, the measure failed 97-78.

Article 2 passed after a request to amend the argument was made by resident Mary Aicardi, Precinct 5, who wanted to increase setbacks for retailers to be greater than the 500 feet from schools, daycares, libraries or public playground or parks. Her request failed and the article passed as written.

Articles 3 and 4 passed, imposing a three percent sales tax on marijuana sales and prohibiting consumption on town-owned property respectively.