Westborough becomes first in state to ban marijuana businesses

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The town of Westborough on March 7 became the first municipality in the state to prohibit recreational marijuana businesses within its borders, after voters overwhelmingly approved a local ballot question.
 
General and zoning bylaw amendments on the subject are set for the March 18 Town Meeting as well, to ensure that town town has effectively closed the door on businesses that would grow, test, manufacture or sell marijuana products for recreational use.
 
The state’s recreational marijuana law, approved by voters last November with a 54 percent majority, allows for cities and towns to opt out of the new form of commerce, but state and local officials contend that the language about how to do so is unclear. The 33-page law does not include prescribed language to be used in a ballot question, and does not explicitly state that passing a ballot question at a municipal election is sufficient to prevent recreational marijuana operations within that city or town.
 
The following is the text of the Westborough ballot question: “Shall the Town prohibit the operation of all types of marijuana establishments as defined in G.L. c. 94G, Sec. 1, including marijuana cultivators, marijuana testing facilities, marijuana product manufacturers, marijuana retailers or any other type of licensed marijuana-related businesses, within the Town of Westborough?”
 
An explanatory paragraph on the ballot pointed out that the question “would not prohibit the personal use of marijuana or growing of marijuana at a residence, as permitted by law.”
 
Westborough was one of the first towns in Massachusetts to hold its annual municipal election this spring, and town elections will continue across the state through late June. Ballots in some towns have not been set yet, but other towns are also expected to vote on questions that would prohibit recreational marijuana businesses. Cities will be holding their elections this fall.
 
The 2016 marijuana law allows the cultivation, distribution, possession and use of marijuana for recreational purposes. On Dec. 15, it became legal for Massachusetts residents age 21 or older to possess, grow, use and “gift” certain amounts of marijuana, but the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana does not become legal until a yet-to-be-named Cannabis Control Commission issues regulations regarding implementation of the law.
 
The CCC must promulgate initial regulations by March 15, 2018, and must issue final regulations by July 1, 2018, at which point the state may begin accepting license applications for marijuana businesses.