Selectmen discuss process for recreational marijuana permitting

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury – After the April 23 Special Town Meeting at which retail recreational marijuana was approved by a narrow two-thirds majority, the wheels are now in motion for reviewing applicants for two retail establishments. Selectmen discussed the process for review at their June 12 meeting.

Board Chair John Lebeaux recused himself due to his role as commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. Vice-chair Maurice DePalo presided over the discussion.

Town Manager Kevin Mizikar reported that since the Special Town Meeting the town has received a lot of interest from the marijuana industry. He has received inquiries ranging from testing, research and cultivating to manufacturing, medical and retail.

He walked the board through a memo he prepared that provides suggestions for the review process which includes an initial meeting with himself and the assistant town manager, then a meeting including department heads such as planning, police and fire, before an applicant going before the board.

The process for vetting needs to be consistent, Mizikar noted.

“We’ve reviewed the requirements of Cannabis Control Commission and the previous process that this board used for establishing a host community agreement with a medical marijuana dispensary…and are recommending six criteria be used and communicated to these applicants prior to them coming in and making a formal presentation for you,” he said.

Selectman James Kane asked, “Why not have the professional staff cull the herd to see if they meet some minimum threshold then those that do come into a public setting?”

Mizikar replied that the goal of the criteria was to serve as the culling mechanism. The investment that applicants will have to make, establishing an interest in property, having a demonstratable security plan and banking other than cash only will help thin the herd.

“If there is a scenario where we have two [applicants] then these criteria are the ones we would be using, its one things to cull the herd so to speak…but somewhere there has to be some judgement call made and this is what we are going to need this for,” stated Selectman Moira Miller.

She also wondered if there would be some ranking or weighting of the criteria involved in decision-making.

Mizikar responded to a question regarding negotiating a host agreement, noting that there is a 3-percent limitation to the tax revenue that the town can claim.

A draft of the process will be written and reviewed by the town’s legal counsel.