, Newburyport, MA

September 25, 2013

Moratorium on pot clinics eyed in Salisbury


---- — SALISBURY — On Oct. 28, Town Meeting could vote on a warrant article to enact a temporary moratorium that would prevent the arrival of medical marijuana facilities, giving the Planning Board time to develop a zoning bylaw to deal with the complexity of siting them.

Selectmen voted unanimously on Monday night to recommend to Planning Board members that they immediately initiate the public process required in order to present a moratorium warrant article for the upcoming Town Meeting. Selectmen suggested the moratorium last no longer than Dec. 31, 2014, adding that the warrant article should include a sunset clause, allowing the moratorium to expire as soon as the town enacts the new medical marijuana zoning bylaw.

The moratorium gives the town a respite, allowing the Planning Board time to develop what will most likely be a complex regulation meant to protect Salisbury’s best interests, selectmen said, while also adhering to the state law that legalized the dispensation and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Selectman Fed Knowles voted in favor of the moratorium, although he voiced strong opposition to any kind of moratorium at a meeting just two weeks ago. His changed his mind, he said, after a workshop on the topic last Tuesday, when Kopelman and Paige attorney Kay Doyle spent two hours briefing selectmen and planning board members on the intricacies of the law passed about a year ago.

Given the still unanswered questions, Knowles said, a temporary moratorium makes sense and gives Salisbury officials time to find the answers.

The issues of medical marijuana facilities came to the forefront about a month ago when Town Manager Neil Harrington received a call from a party interested in possibly siting a marijuana cultivation facility in town. The law allows for at least 35 medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, requiring at least one, but not more than five, in each county.

At last week’s workshop, Planning Board member Robert Straubel said the board didn’t have sufficient time to develop the new zoning in time for approval at the Oct. 28 Town Meeting, given its complex nature. But he added that if they act promptly, the board did have time to create a temporary moratorium warrant article for Fall Town Meeting, then develop a zoning bylaw in time for Spring Town Meeting.

Selectmen decided to suggest a Dec. 31, 2014 deadline for the moratorium just in case Spring Town Meeting has issues with the new bylaw, requiring it to be studied further and brought back to Fall 2014 Town Meeting.