By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter
SHREWSBURY – A marijuana delivery operator is now one step closer to opening in Shrewsbury following a Board of Selectmen vote, Sept. 14, to approve a host community agreement.
The agreement passed by a 3-1 margin, with Selectman Maurice DePalo voting against it. Vice Chair John Lebeaux was not present.
DePalo notes commitment to permit two dispensaries in Shrewsbury
Many Rivers LLC first appeared before the Shrewsbury selectmen during their Aug. 10 meeting.
At that time, a Many Rivers representative said they were interested in opening at a site at 299 Hartford Turnpike. Many Rivers would purchase products from licensed marijuana establishments, warehouse the products, accept orders online and deliver orders.
“I’m not comfortable with it,” DePalo said. “I’m not sure this is something that I want to see the town do. I don’t think it would make a difference who it was.”
He later explained that he felt approval of this agreement would violate the spirit of communications to town residents following marijuana’s legalization in Massachusetts in 2016. Shrewsbury would only be able to permit two dispensaries, DePalo noted.
“I know this is something a little different; it’s home delivery, but it’s still another dispensary in a sense,” DePalo said.
He said he understood the benefits of Many Rivers.
“But, I thought we were pretty clear we’d only have two,” DePalo said.
Delivery discussions part of larger debate over marijuana in Shrewsbury
The debate on recreational marijuana has continued in Shrewsbury over several years since the town votes against the state-wide, 2016 ballot question that ultimately legalized the product in Massachusetts.
In 2018. Shrewsbury considered joining a growing list of communities that had already banned recreational dispensaries within their town or city lines. But voters ultimately rejected that ban at Town Meeting.
More recently, on Sept. 14, Selectman Beth Casavant said that, when the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) began discussing delivery licenses, the Board of Selectmen sent a letter saying it felt like the rules were changing.
“It seemed like we did all that work,” Casavant said. “We went through this whole exercise as a town and as a Town Meeting. We made a decision, and then the CCC sort of changed the rules on us without allowing us any real recourse.”
‘Delivery is everywhere’
Though she raised concerns about the CCC’s process, Casavant said she was comfortable with the agreement with Many Rivers, adding that it was consistent with Shrewsbury’s other host community agreements.
“I think that delivery is everywhere, and if it isn’t here in Shrewsbury, these guys are going to pack up and head to the next town that’s geographically convenient and set up there,” Casavant said.
Town Manager Kevin Mizikar said the agreement provides Shrewsbury with the full three-percent host community fee allowed on these types of agreements. He said the agreement also includes safety provisions to ensure that Many Rivers expeditiously moved through the Cannabis Control Commission process.
Shrewsbury already has two retail recreational marijuana establishments in town.