Brewster Town Meeting Bans Recreational Marijuana Sales

BREWSTER – Brewster residents approved a ban on recreational marijuana retail shops at a contentious special town meeting Monday night.

The vote on Article 13 was 632 in favor of the ban, 561 against. An attempt by opponents to reconsider the article just before 11 p.m. was rejected.

Despite that vote, residents rejected a zoning change that would have increased the distance any marijuana shop would have to be from places like schools and places of worship.

The decision to ban recreation sales will not stop the sale of medical marijuana.

When Massachusetts residents legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, the vote in Brewster was 52-to-48 percent against allowing sales of the drug.

But at a subsequent town meeting, an effort to ban the sale of recreational pot was rejected.

On Monday’s warrant, three articles dealt with the issue.

They sought to ban recreational sales, marijuana cultivators, manufacturers and testing facilities.

William Henchy, a local attorney, spoke in favor of the prohibition.

“It will not turn over sales to the criminals,” he said.

Henchy also argued that allowing recreational pot would result in massive traffic issues.

“Because of those bans in other towns, Brewster has become the epicenter to marijuana,” Henchy said.

“Out little town of 9,800 people is the market for 171,263 potential customers of recreational marijuana. In the summer months, that number swells to 428,000,” said Henchy.

Others who spoke in favor of the ban said they didn’t want to have the congestion that would come with recreational sales and didn’t think it was good fit for Brewster’s character.

Brewster State Representative Tim Whelan (R) spoke in favor of the article, expressing concern about how law enforcement could determine if someone was impaired.

“Persons going and purchasing items inside the store would consume them on the property and then drive the roads in Brewster while under the influence of intoxicating substances and that this could cause carnage,” said Whelan.,

He said the current laws make it nearly impossible to get a conviction for operating under the influence of marijuana.

Whelan is a retired State Police trooper, who talked about a case where one of his fellow troopers was almost run down on Route 6 by a driver impaired by marijuana.

Supporters who spoke against the ban said Brewster would lose out on significant tax revenue if the ban was approved.

Others worried that medical marijuana could be impacted by a ban on recreational pot.

One voter said banning adult use marijuana would actually result in an increase in crime, akin to what happened during Prohibition, when alcohol was banned.

“Prohibition didn’t reduce crime, it actually increased crime. It didn’t reduce violence, it actually increased violence. And in 1932 it was repealed,” said Robert Gartside.

In Leicester, one of the two Massachusetts towns that have recreational pot shops that opened last month, there have been massive traffic backups in the area surrounding the store.

Resident Betsy Smith opposed the ban, saying the drug should be regulated.

“I do not see that not regulating pot is a good way to go. I want to know, should I want a pot brownie, maybe someday, I don’t know, what exactly is in it,” she said.

An amendment that would have specifically allowed medical marijuana establishments that received conditional approval before July 2017 was defeated.

Some observers believed the amendment was an attempt to protect the only company that has conditional medical marijuana approval from competition is the ban on recreational passed.

The original article would not ban medical sales.

Three groups have proposed opening pot shops in Brewster, including Christopher Taloumis of Orleans.

He said only running a medical marijuana operation would not survive as recreational shops opened elsewhere in the state.

His company, the Haven Center, has indicated they would sue the town if voters banned recreational pot.

A majority of Cape Cod towns have enacted some form of ban on recreational marijuana.

Brewster, Wellfleet, Provincetown, Truro, Eastham and Mashpee are still fair game at this point.

In other action, Brewster residents approved spending Community Preservation Act money for projects at the Cape Rep Theater, Habitat for Humanity, the Brewster Affordable Housing Trust and the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History.

They also okayed a revision to the town’s accessory dwelling unit bylaw.

By MATT PITTA, CapeCod.com News Director

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