MRCC

Grow, Gift, Repair

#MUNICIPAL #GUIDANCE: Hinsdale

With a year-old moratorium on marijuana businesses about to expire, participants at a special town meeting Wednesday enacted a bylaw that permits up to five cannabis cultivation firms, one retail outlet for adult-use recreational marijuana and one medical dispensary.

Terms and conditions filled seven pages in the meeting warrant. While several of the three dozen residents expressed opposition to cannabis commerce, the bylaw secured the two-thirds majority it needed, passing 28-5.

Initial objections from the audience faded when Richard Scialabba, chairman of the Planning Board, explained that if the bylaw failed, firms that secure approvals from the state Cannabis Control Commission could set up anywhere they’d like in Hinsdale and operate without local constraints.

“It’s a free-for-all,” Scialabba said. “Developers will be able to do things without any control.”

That’s because Hinsdale voters endorsed recreational cannabis use by backing a November 2016 referendum, 58-42.

While close, that tally put Hinsdale in the “yes” column on cannabis. To reverse course, state law requires communities to hold another ballot vote. Hinsdale officials decided not to go that route and shaped the new bylaw as a safeguard.

The rules will allow Hinsdale to levy a 3 percent tax on any marijuana enterprise’s gross receipts.

“There’s a lot of legalese in there, but it’s basically to protect us,” Scialabba said of the bylaw.

William Pike, a fellow Planning Board member, rose to address a question from resident Richard Roussin about enforcement.

Roussin said he feels some existing bylaws are not enforced in Hinsdale.

“In this case there can’t be any fooling around. We’ve got to enforce this bylaw,” Roussin said.

Pike said Hinsdale will get help from the state cannabis board and its stack of rules.

“They’re going to be the one looking over their shoulder,” Pike said of the state, referring to its oversight of licensed cannabis businesses.

The Planning Board worked on the bylaw for four months, in consultation with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. Like all bylaws, it must be reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office.