Planning Board continues public hearing for marijuana moratorium request

Southwick residents voted in favor of recreational marijuana on this year’s ballot question

The Planning Board discusses the moratorium for marijuana during their public hearing. (Photo by Greg Fitzpatrick, The Westfield News)

SOUTHWICK, Mass. (The Westfield News) – The Planning Board held a public hearing on Tuesday night, regarding a zoning bylaw amendment. The public hearing involved the planning board proposing a moratorium for any applications or approvals of medical marijuana, recreational marijuana, and marijuana production facilities.

The moratorium would last up to 18 months at the most, as it would give the Planning Board and the town of Southwick the chance to review the state’s legislation while conducting their own zoning and bylaw for the town.

It is unclear as to when the state will finishing their legislation on marijuana, since the voters in Massachusetts voted in favor of recreational marijuana in November 2016.

Continuing Coverage: Marijuana News

Roz Terry, the Chairperson for the Planning Board, sees the moratorium as a reasonable way for the board to carefully go through the zoning and the bylaws.

“We’re just open to propose a moratorium,” said Terry. “We’re just hoping that the town will give us time.”

The Southwick residents voted in favor of recreational marijuana on this year’s ballot question, and the Planning Board recognizes that they have to respect the voters.

“We can’t prohibit (marijuana) it,” said Terry. “It has to be allowed.”

According to what the state legislation has formed, the Planning Board will have to take into account that one decision for marijuana could also mean another.

“Whatever we do with the medical (marijuana) is going to open the gates for the retail,” said Planning Board member Mike Doherty.

The moratorium would prevent any marijuana companies from taking applications for either medical or recreational use, until the state finishes their legislation.

Doug Moglin, who is a former member of the Planning Board, has an extensive background with zoning and bylaws, and reminded the board what the biggest priority would be with the moratorium.

“The approach you guys need to take is strictly from a zoning issue,” said Moglin.

As the moratorium would allow the town to carefully and patiently create their zoning, any licenses for possible marijuana companies, would have to be put on hold until the Cannabis Control Board completes their licensing process.

Terry also reminded the Planning Board that a sub-committee should be formed. The committee would give updates on what the state is doing and what the town could do moving forward with zoning and bylaws.

The request for a moratorium was continued as the public hearing will resume at the next planning board meeting on Feb. 7.

According to Terry, the moratorium would have to stay open until at least the next special town meeting, which is set to be in May.