What is the Path Forward on Millis Retail Marijuana Sales?

Herby Highman
Issue Date: 
July, 2018
Article Body: 

At the May 14th Millis town meeting, the zoning proposal for marijuana sales in Millis did not pass, leaving Millis residents wondering what happens next in the process.
James McCaffrey, a member of the Board of Selectmen, says, “The moratorium remains in effect until the end of the year, but it’s important for the town to develop a general bylaw.”
The article carried a majority vote of 99-75, but fell short of the two-thirds majority required to pass.
The towns of Holliston, Medway, and Bellingham have already voted to ban retail sales of recreational marijuana. Discussions in Millis center not around whether cultivation and sales are allowed, but rather the restrictions under which cultivation and sales can occur.
“There are two parallel tracks we’re going to be heading down,” says McCaffrey. “One is the development of what we’re calling general bylaws, nuisance bylaws. These would apply with respect to noise, odor, traffic, lighting, anything you would have connected with a commercial operation. And then we do have the zoning rules that we’re going to be working on.”
An overlay zone creates a special zoning district, placed over an existing base zone, which identifies special provisions in addition to those in the underlying base zone. In this case, the underlying zone is an industrial zone (IP2), and the overlay would add additional setback stipulations.
Previous proposals have had setbacks of 1500 feet from special use locations such as schools, the library, and places of worship. Millis’s bylaws for medical marijuana already stipulate a 1,000-foot setback.
“Any zoning bylaw has to go through the Planning Board as well,” says McCaffrey. “Both elected bodies will seek to address the issue one way or the other.”
Two businesses are currently looking to establish locations in Millis.
CommCan, Inc. has plans to sell medical marijuana at a facility on 1525 Main Street. Businesses already involved in medical marijuana usage have priority status to transition to adult recreational usage. At the time being, they have a retail location in Southborough, with a cultivation facility in Medway.
617 Therapeutic Health Center wants to have a medical marijuana facility at 1073 Main Street, hoping to later add non-medical manufacture and cultivation to the site. 617’s initial plans also included retail. This property abuts Ryan’s Amusements as well as residential property.
The Board of Selectmen will be continuing discussion on the matter when it meets in July. The current moratorium on retail marijuana sales remains in place until the end of the year. In the event that no new article passes, the moratorium will expire, and retail sales can take place under current industrial and commercial bylaws.
“If nothing passes,” McCaffrey says, “we’ve got a problem. The goal from the board’s point of view would be to create a bylaw proposal that people could support at the town meeting.”
Town input is much appreciated at further meetings, and will be especially important come November. The exact wording of the question is not yet available.
At press time, there was another Board of Selectmen meeting scheduled for June 25th. There will also be a Planning Board meeting at Tuesday, July 10, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. in the Veterans Memorial Building.