New regulations for marijuana businesses were approved this week in a town meeting vote that comfortably surpassed the required two-thirds majority, despite a few vocal opponents.
Regulation will work through zoning bylaws that confine all marijuana businesses — both growers and retailers — to an area on Route 63 from Cross Road to the Erving town line, and the parallel part of Pine Meadow Road. There are also provisions ensuring that the businesses conform to the style of the town, including rules about the appearance of buildings, laws against marketing to minors and a prohibition against on-site consumption that effectively eliminates the possibility of “cannabis cafes.”
Marijuana businesses have been banned in Northfield since the state legalized it, but the town’s moratorium is set to expire at the end of 2018. Had voters at this week’s meeting rejected the proposed regulations, there was also an option to extend the moratorium through June. But the town’s attorney advised against trying to extend the moratorium. Apparently, the legality of such extensions has not yet been settled, and other towns in Massachusetts that have attempted them have been threatened with lawsuits.
Even so, a few residents spoke passionately against the bylaws, suggesting the town was rushing through the process to meet a deadline, and that marijuana shouldn’t be sold at all in Northfield. Selectwoman Julia Blythe pointed out that the bylaws can always be adjusted after they’ve been passed.