South Deerfield town boards divided over marijuana

  • In this Feb. 17, 2016 photo, plants grow at the home of Jeremy Nickle, in his backyard in Honolulu, Hawaii. Nickel, who owns Hawaiian Holy Smokes and is applying for a dispensary, grows a variety of strains and has a medical marijuana card. Those wanting to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii face unique obstacles in a state of islands separated by federal waters. (AP Photo/Marina Riker) Marina Riker

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/3/2018 9:33:32 AM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — When it comes to how recreational marijuana establishments should be regulated in Deerfield, the Planning Board is not neutral.

That much was made clear Monday through a vote by the seven-member board to eliminate the word “neutral” from a memo on a proposed zoning bylaws regulating marijuana businesses. The memo will be read at Deerfield’s annual Town Meeting scheduled for April 30.

“Neutral is not a word I would choose. ‘Bitterly divided.’ Not neutral,” said board member Max Antes Jr. Another member, John Baronas, noted that “the people need to know there was a lot of heated debate about this.”

Last week, because a majority couldn’t be reached, the Planning Board made an unusual move and approved two opposing separate marijuana bylaws for the Town Meeting warrant: to either prohibit establishments altogether, or regulate them through a zoning bylaw (which the memo taken up Monday, to be read at Town Meeting, will address).

Simultaneously, the board voted to recommend prohibition to town voters by a 4-2 majority. The board took a 3-3 vote to recommend the regulation bylaws to voters. One member, John Waite, was absent for the vote, and another member, Henry “Kip” Komosa, recommended both propositions.

However, the Selectboard on Friday essentially nullified the Planning Board’s unusual move by deciding not to include a prohibition item on next month’s election ballot. In order for a town to prohibit marijuana sales and cultivation, a vote must pass both at Town Meeting and town election.

“Because Deerfield was a ‘yes’ community (on marijuana, in the November 2016 state election), state law says that it has to have two means of a vote — one is an article in Town Meeting, the other is a ballot vote,” said Komosa said.

Discussion among those in favor of prohibition Monday introduced the possibility of a subsequent special town election after the annual election, if prohibition receives enough favorable votes at Town Meeting and assuming it’s even taken up for a vote.

“On the issue of prohibition, I know the Selectboard is going to get the moderator to declare it a moot point,” Komosa continued, suggesting that the selectboard, of which he’s a member, will try to skip the prohibition warrant article because there’s no ballot item. “I also know the Selectboard is going to challenge the Planning Board’s approval as licensing authority on town meeting floor.”

Planning Board member Paul Allis noted that the board had previously been given licensing authority for all marijuana establishments.

Ultimately, the Planning Board on Monday decided to simply strike the memo’s opening paragraph, which included the controversial word ‘neutral,’ and stick to “just the facts,” as suggested by member Rachel Blain.

“Heated and bitter are two words I would not use to describe our discussion,” Blain said. “It’s neither in favor or against.”

The road ahead

Looking at the road ahead leading to Town Meeting, the Selectboard will meet on Wednesday at 5 p.m. to discuss the meeting’s agenda. After that, the last day to register to vote is April 10. Town Meeting will take place April 30 in Frontier Regional School starting at 7 p.m. There, Planning Board member John Waite will present the memo.

“I’m happy, as the chair, to present this. And if there is discussion, we can all have our opinions. But it’s important to see the numbers,” Waite said, adding, “and I respectfully request that we don’t argue too much at the Town Meeting.”

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.

On Twitter: @AndyCCastillo


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