Because the current City Council’s term ends in December, McClure cannot officially propose the moratorium until the new council is officially seated in January. Once that happens, she will have to make the proposal as a first reading, which will then be forwarded to committee before being brought to a vote at the following council meeting.
Unless a special meeting is called, the earliest a vote on the moratorium could be taken is in February, by which point the DPH will have already issued its medical marijuana licenses.
If either ATG or GHHP were awarded a license in late January, they would be free to begin the process of setting up shop in Amesbury right away and would likely be grandfathered in if a moratorium were approved after the fact.
The renewed discussion on medical marijuana in Amesbury was sparked earlier this month when Council President Anne Ferguson proposed a resolution of non-opposition in support of ATG’s Phase II application for a DPH medical marijuana license. The proposal surprised many of the councilors, who said they had no idea that medical marijuana companies were actively trying to move in.
The subject has been at the forefront of discussion in many other communities for months, however, and numerous local communities have already implemented moratoriums, including Salisbury and Newbury.
Moratoriums can’t be indefinite and must follow a timeframe consistent with the proposed planning process. The attorney general’s office has approved moratoriums lasting between 12 to 18 months, but it has struck down moratoriums longer than that.
The city also cannot ban medical marijuana facilities entirely. Several communities — notably Wakefield — tried to pass outright bans on medical marijuana, but those bans were overturned by the attorney general’s office. The argument was that if any one town could ban medical marijuana, then all of them could, which would defeat the purpose of the law.
McClure acknowledged that the idea of proposing a medical marijuana moratorium back in the spring or the summer never occurred to her, and she always presumed the city would have a chance to discuss the issue before it was forced under the gun.
“I didn’t think it would ever come to town without an open discussion,” McClure said.