At a joint meeting this week, the Waitsfield Select Board and Planning Commission discussed how recreational cannabis will intersect with the town’s zoning ordinances as the town contemplates whether to opt in for retail sale of cannabis.
The two groups met on December 14 to talk about the planning commission budget and priorities for the coming year, including land use regulations.
The combined board discussed the fact that the legislation passed last session did not classify growing recreational marijuana as an agricultural use. Agricultural uses are considered a use by right which is not subject to town zoning regulations.
WATER AND LIGHT POLLUTION
“That’s an important point, this could be an industrial grow op indoor with water and light pollution. I think we really need to be on our game,” said Waitsfield Select Board member Jon Jamieson.
Town administrator Trevor Lashua noted that towns need to opt in to allow retail sales of cannabis, but they can’t opt out of growing, testing and processing.
“We’re still going to want to do some work related to those other land use pieces,” Lashua said.
Planning commissioner Brian Voigt said he’d be surprised if people were growing in greenhouses in The Valley.
“I don’t think light pollution is a problem. Since it’s not like ag, we could regulate the lights so as to be less disturbing. What’s going to happen in indoor spaces that could be retrofitted is something we should be thinking about. I see overlaps in hemp and cannabis in the processing side of it. I don’t see an industrial scale extraction facility in. The Valley. I think this will be more on the cottage industry side of things. I see potential for currently vacant real estate and who’s going to get a license,” Voigt said.
“Regulating the scale is something the planning commission would consider,” said select board member Brian Shupe.
Select board chair Paul Hartshorn said he felt it sent the wrong message to young people to allow growing a product that is harmful to their health. Shupe pointed out that 37 states have legalized medicinal marijuana and Jamieson added, “Retail is the only thing we can vote on. Growing, processing and wholesaling is coming anyway.”
Voigt said that the planning commission should discuss whether people can grow commercially on a residential property.
At a previous discussion on the town voting (by Australian ballot) to opt in for retail cannabis sales, the board considered holding a straw vote at Town Meeting this year. Shupe asked the planning commissioners for their thoughts on holding a straw vote.
“I think yes, if for no other reason that if it seems like town consensus is yes on retail recreational sales then that should influence the regs that we write to help small businesses be the feeders to that production chain,” Voigt said.