Pot ordinance nearing completion in Greenfield

  • 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
Thursday, June 14, 2018

GREENFIELD — The City Council will be asked to decide whether buffer zones around marijuana facilities should be 250 feet, as recommended by the Planning Board, or 100 feet, which was recommended by the council’s Economic Development Committee, following Tuesday’s joint public hearing.

The two groups were split on their recommendations for buffer zones after concerns were brought forward about how close marijuana facilities will be to schools. As written, the buffer zone would not allow any marijuana facility within 100 feet of schools grades kindergarten to 12, though the state allows for a buffer up to 500 feet.

City Councilor Wanda Pyfrom asked why the ordinance would be 100 feet instead of using the state’s maximum.

“To take a 500-foot buffer zone that’s a given and (cut) it down to 100 feet just to shove a business in, that’s wrong,” Pyfrom said.

Pyfrom, along with Councilor Daniel Leonovich, suggested starting with a larger buffer zone and reducing it over time.

Councilor Tim Dolan felt no rationale was provided for having a buffer.

“What I haven’t heard is a real rationale for buffer zones,” Dolan said. “Are we worried children are going to leave school, buy marijuana and head back to school?”

Pyfrom proposed the Economic Development Committee vote to increase the buffer zone from 100 feet to 250 feet, though the recommendation failed, two votes in favor and three against. Pyfrom and Leonovich voted in favor while Dolan, Sheila Gilmour and Otis Wheeler voted against.

The Planning Board, which deliberated and made its own recommendations, voted to recommend the 250-foot buffer zone, with three in favor and two against.

One resident asked the two boards to consider adding houses of worship within a buffer zone. The committee and the board both declined, the reasoning being that there are churches downtown and this would create a conflict with a desire to have recreational marijuana businesses.

Councilor Isaac Mass previously suggested adding houses of worship under a buffer zone during the last full council meeting, but that idea failed.

Other regulations within the ordinance require marijuana facilities to receive a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals and set a maximum of eight marijuana retail facilities.

There will be three zones where marijuana establishments will not be allowed: suburban residential, urban residential and semi-residential. Rural residential zones can have cultivation, but sites must be less than 5,000 square feet.

The rest of the zones in the city would be able to contain certain types of marijuana establishments.

City Council is expected to decide on the ordinance during its next meeting June 20, before a moratorium on recreational sales ends June 30.

As long as there are no “substantive changes,” then the ordinance could be in place by the moratorium’s end, but it is unclear if increasing the buffer zone would be considered a substantive change.

If a substantive change were to occur, then the ordinance creation process would have to start over.

It is unclear what ramifications there will be if the moratorium is passed, but according to Patriot Care Senior Executive Bob Mayerson, facilities will still need a host agreement from Mayor William Martin and a state-issued license to begin selling pot.