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Greenfield nixes pot moratorium

Supports dispensary opening

GREENFIELD — The town has decided not to impose a moratorium on pot farms and dispensaries, but instead to move forward with creating an ordinance that would allow them to come to Greenfield.

Town Council discussed the matter last week, first reducing a request by Mayor William Martin for a six-month to a three-month moratorium so that the town could get the proper regulations in place, and then voting down the three-month moratorium.

Massachusetts voters approved a referendum legalizing marijuana for medical use last November. Then in May, the state Department of Public Health provided zoning, health and security regulations for the future dispensaries.

The state plans to allow 35 licenses, with up to five per county, and the mayor would like Greenfield to get one of them.

Martin originally requested a one-year moratorium, but the town’s Planning Board and a Town Council subcommittee reduced the time to six months, saying they could get the necessary ordinance in place by then.

Precinct 1 Councilor Marian Kelner said she is against a moratorium because it is “too important an issue to delay.”

Kelner said she knows Greenfield residents who are sick and experience relief when they smoke pot.

“Residents want access to treatment,” said Kelner. “It’s good for people with certain problems.”

She said she’d like to see the process to get a dispensary in Greenfield moved along as quickly as possible.

Kelner and other councilors agreed that to place a moratorium on farms and dispensaries would make some people feel like there’s something terribly wrong with the idea.

Precinct 3 Councilor Brickett Allis asked why a dispensary couldn’t be located in the zone that pharmacies and health facilities are currently located in.

“We do have to step back, look and decide where we want to put it,” said Allis.

Many councilors were on the fence until the very end of the hour-long discussion, saying they needed a compelling reason to vote one way or the other.

Others said they didn’t see a difference between pharmacies dispensing strong narcotics or pot.

“I don’t see how prescribing marijuana is different than prescribing a pill,” said Precinct 6 Councilor Hillary Hoffman.

When the vote was finally taken for the three-month moratorium — it needed two-thirds approval, or nine “yes” votes — four voted against a moratorium and eight voted for one.

Voting for a moratorium were Precinct 4 Councilor Steven Ronhave, Precinct 2 Councilor Keith Zalzberg, Precinct 3 Councilor Brickett Allis, Precinct 5 Councilor David Singer, Precinct 8 Councilor Karen Shapiro Miller, Precinct 9 Councilor Norman Hirschfeld, At-Large Councilor Patrick Devlin, and At-Large Councilor Mark Maloni.

Voting against the moratorium were Precinct 1 Councilor Marian Kelner, Precinct 6 Councilor Hillary Hoffman, Precinct 7 Councilor Karen Renaud and Town Council President Mark Wisnewski.

At-large Councilor Dalton Athey did not attend the meeting.

The town’s current plan is to begin work on creating an ordinance as soon as possible.

A council subcommittee and the town’s Planning Board will be discussing what regulations and licensing the town will need, and will hold public hearings so that residents have input.

An ordinance will eventually go to Town Council for approval.

Devlin said the town will need to be cautious and not rush through the process.

“I think we should take the next three to six months now and plan out exactly what we want to do,” said Allis.

“Let’s get the zoning in place to make this happen,” said Planning Board Chairwoman Roxann Wedegartner at a recent board meeting.

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