With Pot Legal, Selectmen Consider Curbs on Retail Sale of Marijuana

Photo: What could be coming to Belmont in 13 months.

A head shop on every street corner in Belmont?

While not the most likely business scenario for the “Town of Homes,” unless the Belmont Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting gets together to place allowable restrictions on the retail sale of marijuana, stores much like those in Colorado, dubbed “recreational dispensaries,” could spring up in Belmont’s commercial districts with no prohibition on numbers.

And the clock is ticking.

“If Belmont wants to control [marajuna sales], it has a shorter timetable than it realizes,” said Board of Health Chair Dr. David Alper who meet the Selectmen with fellow board member Julie LeMay on Monday, Dec. 12.

The possession, use, and home-growing of marijuana became legal under state law for adults 21 and older on Thursday, Dec. 15 when the Governor’s Council certified the ballot question 4 which passed on Nov. 8. Adults can hold up to 10 oz. and grow six plants with a maximum of 12 per household.

While municipalities can adopt an outright moratorium on “smoke” shops – Ashland has gone that route – that sell smokable and eatable marijuana, Alper noted Belmont residents voted 53 percent to 47 percent for legalizing pot. Also, prohibiting pot sales would preclude Belmont from receiving up to 2 percent local tax on purchases.

Rather than a ban, Alper advised following the state’s goal of treating marijuana like alcohol, such as placing a cap on the number of establishments in town. The only current restriction on pot shops is they can not be within 500 feet of a school zone.

But Alper said the town must have any limitations in the town’s bylaws by January 2018 when the new law permits the first head shops to open for business.

“[The selectmen] must have an article before Town Meeting [in May 2017] so the town can vote in September,” he said.

“You are driving [future restrictions],” Alper told the selectmen, who advised creating a committee with representatives from the Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning, and Health boards to create guidelines for the Selectmen to follow.

“If we do nothing, there could be as many stores … [located] anywhere,” said Alper.

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