Discussion with planning board on retailing marijuana

The Planning Board is considering how the town could potentially regulate where recreational marijuana retail facilities.
The planning board is an authorised group of personnel subjecting cannabis zoning petition that recommends adoption, with suggested revisions and additional consideration. 
The board is supportive of the proposal in general, Board Members acknowledged that the Cambridge public voted strongly in favour of allowing the legal sale of cannabis and marijuana; don’t see a need to over-regulate this type of use. Also, noted that this is the start of a new industry and as such it’s a unique opportunity to promote economic empowerment and to help make the industry more inclusive of people of diverse backgrounds.

Screenshot of the NJ cannabis regulatory Board

The group seeks to remove “Indoor Adult-Use Cultivation” from the list of prohibited businesses under the current regulations. This requires changes to the land use ordinance and the marijuana moratorium. It was presented as “a simple two-step stop-gap measure” that would allow some adult-use marijuana cultivation to commence this spring while allowing freedom to take their time crafting a specific ordinance for adult-use marijuana cultivation.

The Board recommends the following improvements to the petition:

• The Board recommends that 300 feet rather than 500 feet, which is a rational distance to require as a buffer between cannabis use and schools or public youth facilities.

•. Applying proposed new special permit criteria should be clarified so that the Board can be transparent. Board members agreed with the intent of protecting the availability of medical cannabis but were unsure of the interpretation of the proposed required finding that a new proposal would not cause a reduction in the availability of medical cannabis.

• Due to recreational and medical “marijuana retailing”, there is chaos; where medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed to provide the service that there is conflicting language in the definitions that could confuse the case of “cannabis retail stores” that offer co-located medical and non-medical cannabis sales, and that should be clarified.

• A comma should be deleted in Section 11.802.3.

Cannabis cultivation industry

In addition, Board members made the following comments regarding issues for future consideration:

  •  Necessity of special permit process, given that, it creates an additional burden for applicants in addition to the licensing process at the state level and the process for executing a local host community agreement. Most of the proposed zoning requirements could be applied objectively, and might not require discretionary.
  • If in the future the Council decided that a special permit was not required, the host community agreement could provide a sufficient opportunity to gather public input and to consider a range of issues that are outside the purview of zoning. Importance of design review is a component of the special permit process to evaluate or mitigate visual impacts on nearby retail businesses or the character of the district. This design review issue would have to be addressed if the special permit were eliminated. If a special permit and a host community agreement both continue to be required, the relationship between the two should be clearly defined.
  •  Recommended further study of  options of mobile facilities, operating temporarily might provide lower barriers to entry for small businesses that cannot afford typical retail rents. It is not clear if this would be possible within state regulations and if it could be done in a way that addresses security concerns, but the Board felt this could be investigated further.
  • Board members suggested further consideration of whether the proposed parking requirements are adequate or could be improved upon in the future.

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