January 24, 2017
By LEAH DEARBORN
LYNNFIELD — The town is looking to halt marijuana sales within its borders after the substance was legalized across the state last November.
The Board of Selectmen voted Monday to include a referendum question preventing its sale on the next town election ballot, as well as two warrant articles that will be presented at the April Town Meeting.
“This is a nightmare for town counsels throughout the Commonwealth,” said Town Counsel Thomas Mullen.
Mullen explained that the new law contains limited opportunities for municipalities to prevent the sale of marijuana. A bylaw blocking its sale must be adopted by voters at the polls, he said.
“A city or town may adopt ordinances and bylaws that impose reasonable safeguards on the operation of marijuana establishments,” according to the initial Question 4 proposal.
Rather than pass a single zoning bylaw or a general bylaw, Mullen said he wants to proceed cautiously to prevent possible lawsuits with a “belt and suspenders approach.”
The approach Mullen outlined will instead require a vote on both a zoning and a general bylaw. The effect of the amendments would be the prohibition of marijuana establishments in town other than medical marijuana facilities, said Mullen. He said the town does have a medical marijuana zoning bylaw in place already.
Another option Mullen presented was for the town to adopt a moratorium, or temporary postponement on marijuana establishments until June 2018. Mullen called the two bylaw solutions somewhat awkward, but said one of the two bylaws could possibly be rescinded at a later date.
The majority of the town’s population voted against Question 4. In November, 2,940 votes were cast in favor of legalization versus the 4,427 votes against it, according to the Town Clerk’s website.
“I think the law itself is a mess,” said Vice Chairman Christopher Barrett. “The voters have spoken loudly. I think it’s necessary to bring this to the ballot this April.”
Leah Dearborn can be reached at email@example.com.