June 13 2017

Advisory Committee Discusses Recreational Marijuana Sale Ban in Town

By: Rich Hosford

Should Burlington ban the sale of recreational marijuana?

That was the focus of discussion at the first meeting of the town’s Marijuana Advisory Committee on Thursday, June 1.

The group, made up of representatives of different boards/committees and town departments, as well as a member of the Coalition for a Healthy Burlington, spoke at length about what the town could do to prevent the sale of recreational marijuana in town. The town currently has a moratorium on the sale that is in place until December of 2018.

Planning Board member Barbara L’Heureux, who pushed for the moratorium and for the creation of the advisory committee, said the group had been tasked with studying the state regulations so they could advise the town board and Town Meeting what could be done with general and zoning bylaws to regulate the sale of recreational marijuana in town.

However, during the advisory committee’s first meeting, town counsel Brandon Moss explained that the law passed in November had a loophole that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana if the state did not meet its obligations to issue guidelines by July 1, 2018 then medical dispensaries would be able to sell for recreational use.

Since the town has allowed for medical dispensaries the group feared the town could be subject to this loophole and have a recreational dispensary whether it wanted one or not.

“Town counsel said that because the state has not given us any direction and the town already has a medical marijuana agreement that could switch over, the only way to control completely is to have a referendum to ban,” Barbara said.

Members of the group at the meeting, with the exception Board of Health representative Maribeth Welch who said the board had not take a position at the time, all made it clear that they were opposed to the sale of recreational marijuana in town. They also pointed to the November, 2016 election results on the question of recreational marijuana that showed Burlington residents opposing the measure 55 to 45 percent.

“Let’s focus on the referendum,” Selectman Jim Tigges said at one point in the conversation. “We don’t want this in town.

This was met with widespread agreement from other members.

Because of this the group decided to push for a ban. This would require both a general and zoning change article at Town Meeting and a ballot referendum on next year’s Town Election ballot.

L’Heureux said it is important for residents to understand that the ban on sales of recreational marijuana would not impact other parts of the law. Residents over 21 years of age would still be allowed to possess and use marijuana products in private place and grow the allowed amount of plants in their homes.


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