Wareham to hold Special Town Meeting ahead of state marijuana deadline

By Matthew Bernat and Lydia Goerner | Jan 30, 2018
Photo by: Matthew Bernat On Tuesday, Selectmen OK'd a Special Town Meeting that will feature four agenda items related to recreational marijuana.

Some of the questions surrounding the legal sale of recreational marijuana in town will be put to rest before an April 1 state deadline, as Selectmen authorized a Special Town Meeting designed to limit the number and locations of pot shops locally.

In November 2016, a state ballot question passed that paved the way for recreational sales of marijuana in Massachusetts. The state's Cannabis Control Commission is drafting a framework for the oversight of retail marijuana shops. Those shops are due to open in July, and it is currently legal to possess and grow marijuana for personal use.

On Tuesday, Selectmen unanimously approved holding a Special Town Meeting on March 12 at 7 p.m. in Wareham High School. All registered voters may attend and participate.

At Town Meeting last year, voters approved a moratorium on retail marijuana shops to allow officials time to draft rules governing sales. That moratorium expires June 30.

April 1 marks the first day the Cannabis Control Commission must start accepting applications from potential marijuana retailers, cultivators and product manufacturers. However, Selectman Alan Slavin said it’s unclear if licenses approved before the moratorium ends would be subject to regulations originally scheduled for a vote at the April 23 Town Meeting.

In order to avoid lawsuits, either against the town from recreational proponents or residents, Slavin said the Special Town Meeting will put rules in place ahead of time.

“We’re being extremely proactive,” said Slavin. “We don’t want to be in a situation where we might face lawsuits that we’re not going to win at the end of the day.”

With a Special Town Meeting before April 1, Slavin said: “We’re fully protected. No matter what happens, we’re all set.”

Slavin said other cities and towns might not be aware of the potential for conflict after a recent Massachusetts Municipal Association meeting. A workshop there revealed that if bylaws are not in place before local moratoriums are lifted, then cities and towns may lose their chance to pass local regulations.

Chair Peter Teitelbaum highlighted the problem, saying, “There would be a three-week gap and we could be absolutely overrun with applicants. We can’t take that risk.”

Already the town has seen interest from three potential recreational marijuana developers. All three have approached the Planning Department, said Slavin.

Director of Planning & Community Development Kenneth Buckland confirmed that, saying one potential applicant inquired about a new medical marijuana operation and another asked about a retail project with on-site growing and processing facilities. The third group included the developers of a long-gestating medical marijuana facility near Tobey Hospital to discuss their building permit.

No official paperwork has been filed yet.

By holding a Special Town Meeting, Slavin said voters will decide whether or not they want to limit the number and location of retail marijuana shops. Under the draft bylaw, the number of recreational marijuana shops would be limited to two, tied to the number of liquor stores in town. The state recommends limiting pot shops to less than 20 percent of the number of package stores. In Wareham, there are 13 package stores.

“Without these rules, it’s possible for there to be 10, 12 or more stores in town, located just about anywhere they want,” said Slavin.

There are some state rules, such as prohibiting stores from opening up within 500 feet of a school or anywhere children normally gather. There will be four items on the Special Town Meeting agenda. Three will be zoning bylaws and one will be a bylaw allowing the Town of Wareham to collect a 3 percent excise tax from sales.

Wareham’s rules, if adopted, would limit the number of retail marijuana licenses issued locally to two and require those stores to open in the general commercial, strip commercial and institutional districts. The general commercial district stretches on both sides of Route 28 from the I-195 on-ramp to the area of Robertson’s Auto Salvage.

The strip commercial district is located just past Robertson’s Auto Salvage on Route 25 and extends to the Bourne town line. The institutional district is located near Tobey Hospital.

Looking ahead, the Cannabis Control Commission is slated to issue the first licenses starting June 1 if there are no delays to the current timeline. The first retail stores are expected to open starting July 1.

So far, state plans are still moving ahead despite uncertainty from federal officials. The Trump administration recently rescinded Obama-era policy that curtailed federal enforcement in states where marijuana is legal.

The U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, said that his office could not provide assurance that marijuana activities at the state level will be immune from federal prosecution.

Comments (10)
Posted by: cranky pants | Jan 31, 2018 07:31

Scrambling again to scrub out what the majority voted for. Don't try too hard people, it's coming so either embrace the idea of revenue generated or sit there sour faced... That's your call.

Like I said before, I'll take two dispensaries over none, but clearly this town doesn't need the extra money that could be generated.

We can put an opioid addiction center that distributes methadone directly behind a smoke shop yet some people are worried about the location of dispensaries. It' not like these new shops are going to have gigantic signs or wacky inflatable arm guys holding gigantic bongs out front. If you're so inclined to regulate things, perhaps simply regulate the design and persona the establishment must keep. I encourage anyone to go take a ride to 29 echo road in Mashpee to see what a model dispensary would look like.

Get your priorities straight guys, it' not 1987 anymore.

Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Jan 31, 2018 09:29

I used to drive by one of these places every day  on the north shore . I never knew it was one until I heard on the radio that the place was one of these. You would never know if you were just passing by , it was in a rough city also .

Posted by: OnsetTogether | Jan 31, 2018 09:47

"Proactive" is not the correct term. Why did they set the moratorium for a time that did not coincide with the state law? The taxpayers should not have to pay the costs of an additional town meeting because the selectmen did not look at a calendar. The selectmen should pay the costs out of pocket, they put it on the last warrant.

Posted by: WWreader | Jan 31, 2018 10:58

Oh dear. Let's look at the facts. At the last spring Town Meeting the body voted to set the moratorium during the special TM. This was BEFORE the legislature changed the law during the summer. Perhaps you expect our selectmen to somehow be able to tell the future, but alas, they are mere mortals. You might want to know what you are talking about before going after the selectmen yet again. Oh yeah, and I still haven't seen your apology for the defamatory remarks against Selectman Scarsciotti. Classy.

Posted by: cranky pants | Jan 31, 2018 13:01

Special meeting for special people...

Posted by: OnsetTogether | Jan 31, 2018 13:11

WWreader the the vote of 2016 has given them plenty of time. They could have resolved this between the April 24, 2017 Special Town Meeting and the October 23, 2017 Town Meeting.  Bill H.3818 190th was signed July 28, 2017.

Misattribution of a quote is not defamation. Said misattribution was corrected by myself, and properly attributed to Mr. Swett, who said Wareham High School did not need a NOW club saying "the group of people at the greatest risk is in fact young males. When I observe I see tremendous progress by young females. All the areas where achievement is recognized, it is routinely seven or eight out of ten are females. So when I see an organization meant to promote women, I’m concerned we’re separating out people’s right and people in general."

Mr. Scarsciotti is a big boy and I'm sure would have contacted me if he were as offended as you purport to be on his behalf.

Posted by: WWreader | Jan 31, 2018 14:36

As Selectman Slavin explained last night, the state was giving them conflicting reports on whether or not the moratorium would hold. Try as you might, you can't blame the selectmen for this. And yes, Tony is a "big boy" and yes, that's condescending considering that some folks read your comment where you accused him of something he did not say. Not everyone reread your comment where you changed the name. A person of integrity would have apologized.

Posted by: cranky pants | Jan 31, 2018 18:08

The whiny few always overrule the content many.


Posted by: Sharkie | Feb 01, 2018 11:57

It’s not the Selectmen’s fault that they meeting deadline didnt coincide with the moratorium, license application timelines and the states deadlines. The state recently announced the deadline of March for regulations to be put in place. This state cannot seem to get their crap together on this issue. The powers that be have flip flopped around as far as setting dates and such is concerned. (I know because I work in the industry). I think it’s a shame that they placed a moratorium and that they are going to limit what can be opened. There is nowhere from here to Brewster so far that is going to open up recreational marijuana establishments.


There is a rule, so to speak, in place. If more than 50% of the residents in your town voted Yes on question 4 you cannot ban marijuana establishments from opening, which is why towns are now scrambling to put bylaws in place. If more than 50% of the towns residents voted NO on question 4, the town doesn’t have to hold a special meeting or vote, they can just ban it. Brewster voted less than 50% but they held a special meeting anyways and the residents voted to let the businesses come in.


Towns are scrambling because as use as the article states, license application process will begin to take place April 1. By limiting it to just two businesses is not a good financial decision because the little guy  is going to have to go out of town to open their business. There is so much revenue to be brought in by allowing cafes and social consumption sites (as long as they are included in the regulations).


The meeting isnt only for special people, it’s for the registered voters of our town to show up and let them know we all fully support this. We want it and we won’t let them keep it from us.

Posted by: cranky pants | Feb 01, 2018 17:33

Very good points Sharkie. Even if you don't support recreational marijuana you might still want to show up and refuse to let bylaws be set on this. It's a slight form of censorship. Don't allow " select-people " to alter what the majority voted yes to simply because they might not like the subject. It's a pant load of crap. They shouldn't be able to call a revote at all, on any level.  There's already parts of the law written that won't allow dispenses to open up near schools and whatnot. Regulate the facade of the building, or the curb appeal... But don't try to tell people they can't open a shop because the powers that be don't like the law that was a yes vote by 57.2% of the population in Wareham. Even though it's only 7.2% percent margin of victory, it's still a win.

It's kind funny how they scurry for grants to build a silly dog park that will generate zero dollars in revenue, yet they will try to keep something that could potentially offer hundreds of thousands of dollars to your town off the planning boards.

I guess it's not about money being made anymore, it's about who's pocket the money is going into.

For the record, 20% of 13 = 2.6 so shouldn't we round up and call it three ?

I guess I'll be filing for that .6% of a store that opens up inside of a coffee shop, barber shop, or maybe even a gas station.

Better yet, I'll be looking into starting a pizza shop that only sells infused pizzas and cannolis.

With all due respect Mr. Slavin and Mr. Teitelbaum.. You do a great job for our town, but leave your personal feelings at home when you come to work. You're basically civil servants set in place to help the people, not yourselves, your morals, your beliefs and your friend circle.



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