Monday, Atty. Amy Kessel from Kopelman and Paige Law, updated the Plympton Board of Selectmen on new information regarding regulating recreational marijuana.
Nov. 8, 2016, Massachusetts voters approved the Question 4 referendum which made the recreational use of marijuana and marijuana establishments legal. Governor Charlie Baker signed this into law on December 30, 2016.
Kessel said the law “contained inconsistencies and raised many questions.” A revised version of the law was signed by Governor Baker on July 28, 2017, “An Act to Ensure Safe Access to Marijuana.”
The Act makes several changes to the laws that were approved by the voters. According to Kessel, several of these changes addressed regulation at the municipal level.
Kessel said, “The most significant changes from the municipal perspective involve the licensing process, the optional local tax surcharge, and amendments to the optional local restrictions or prohibitions that can be considered.”
Under the new provisions regarding the licensing process, municipalities are allowed to establish a moratorium (delay) on licensing recreational marijuana establishments until December 31, 2018. Kessel informed selectmen that the attorney general is not allowing any moratoriums past this date.
Plympton already has a recreational marijuana moratorium in place until June 2018. Extending it to December is a possibility, but afterwards the town will have to decide on a zone for it.
Selectmen John Traynor said, “I don’t see banning it, given the vote, but we’ll need to have strict laws around it.”
The new act does allow for cities and towns to regulate marijuana in ways they see fit. According to G.L. c.94G, s3, Kessel said, “Municipalities seeking to generally regulate the time, place, and manner of marijuana establishment operations may adopt ordinances and bylaws that impose reasonable safeguards on the operation of marijuana establishments, provided they are not “unreasonably impractical.”’
Other things Kessel mentioned that could be regulated were processing and manufacturing that could be deemed a public nuisance, restrictions on public signs, and setting up civil penalties for violating regulations.
Another optional regulation that municipalities can use is an optional local tax surcharge. Attorney Kessel recommends taking this action.
The act allows a city or town to tax a marijuana sale at 3% the total sales price. This increases from the 2% set up in the previous legislation. The tax does not apply to sales or transfers between other marijuana establishments.
In order for a town to adopt this new sales tax, it must be voted on and passed by a majority at Annual Town Meeting.
The new act also requires that municipalities enter in host community agreements with all recreational and medical marijuana facilities. The act authorizes a community impact fee, in which the town may charge up to 3% of the establishment’s gross sales. Kessel recommends instituting this fee.
Kessel said the impact fee can only be used on things that are “reasonably related” to impact cost. She said something like a D.A.R.E. officer would qualify.
All of these regulations will be overseen under the state’s appointed Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). Kessel provided the following timeline of steps the commission took and is taking to start regulating the sale of recreational marijuana.
August 1, 2017-Cannabis Advisory Board
• Appointment of a 25-member Cannabis Advisory Board, with members appointed by a variety of officials and organizations, charged with making recommendations on guidelines, rules and regulations for the recreational use of marijuana.
• The President (or a designee) of the Massachusetts Municipal Association shall hold one seat.
September 1, 2017-Cannabis Control Commission
• Appointment of a five-member Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), by the Governor, Attorney General and Treasurer.
• The CCC will have authority to adopt regulations and issue licenses for commercial production and sale of marijuana, much like the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission for alcohol.
• The CCC shall also assume authority over the licensing of medical marijuana treatment centers, which will be transferred from the Department of Public Health before December 31, 2018.
March 15, 2018-CCC Adoption of Regulations
• Adoption of regulations, guidelines and protocols by the CCC for the issuance of licenses for recreational marijuana establishments by this date.
April 1, 2018-Acceptance of License Applications Begins
• Acceptance of applications by the CCC for recreational marijuana licenses pursuant to G.L. c.94G will begin not later than April 1.
• Important: The CCC will be governed by the zoning bylaws or ordinances in effect at the time of the application. Municipalities must inform the CCC of any bylaw or ordinance that would make the applicant noncompliant if the license is issued.
June 1, 2018-License Issuance
• The CCC may begin issuing licenses. The CCC must approve or deny applications within 90 days.
Update on Potential Ring Road/Main Street Project
The Board of Selectmen said Police Chief Patrick Dillon voiced support for the project to widen the intersection of Ring Road and Main Street. Dillion said, “The new design will create better sight lines.”
More police enforcement was also offered as a short-term solution. The Board was told by Chief Dillon that the police department will offer more speed enforcement, especially during school hours. 25 miles per hour speed limit signs are also part of the short-term plan.
The Board of Selectmen said that Chief Dillon believes this intersection is the worst in town.
Town Administrator Hiring Process Update
Community Paradigm informed the Board of Selectmen that 35 applicants in total applied for the town administrator position. Bernie Lynch from Community Paradigm is working on narrowing down the applicant pool to seven candidates.
These seven applicants will move on to interviews with the Board of Selectmen appointed screening committee. Then, the screening committee narrows down the list to three finalists who the Board of Selectmen interview.
The Board of Selectmen voted to officially sign the contract with Municipal Resources Inc (MRI). MRI will be conducting a study of the operations of the fire department.
The last part of the new Animal Control incident form was approved by the Board of Selectmen. This part of the form was withheld from full approval last week due to some language regarding the Animal Control Officer. The form has since been revised and approved.
The following 1-day liquor licenses were approved by the Board of Selectmen
• Brook Retreat for the October 21, 2017 Black Tie and Blue Jeans on the Bog
• Mirbeau Spa for the October 14, 2017 Cranberry Bog Dinner Excursion
New owners at Plympton Gas and Convenience
A hearing for Plympton Gas and Convenience’s liquor license will be held on Monday, October 16, 2017. The Board said that ownership of the store has been transferred, so the store is not allowed to sell alcohol until they receive a new license.
The same manager and staff were retained by the new owner. Selectmen Chair Christine Joy said, “This might make the background checks quicker, but it could take some time.”