Wareham Selectman expresses concern with ‘cannabis cafes’ on the horizon

Mar 12, 2019

Wareham Selectman Alan Slavin expressed concern on Tuesday night as the state’s Cannabis Control Commission inches closer to the licensing of “cannabis cafes,” businesses where adults ages 21 and older could go to smoke marijuana in a commercial setting. 

Slavin said he wanted to take action at Spring Town Meeting before the licensing of these businesses becomes legal to ensure that they would be held to the same zoning requirements as marijuana retailers already in town.

When Massachusetts residents voted to approve the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2016, supporters also pushed for the legalization cannabis cafes, or “social use establishments,” with the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission; places where patrons could gather and legally use marijuana in a public setting.

Regulations regarding the licensing of these businesses were set to be in place by the end of February 2019, however, the commission is still working to approve recommendations put forward by a panel studying the issue in January.

“As far as I know, no town in Massachusetts has set zoning laws for these types of social clubs,” Slavin said. “If they approve it in the next two months, we need to do something to make sure they can’t just open up anywhere.”

Slavin proposed drafting an agenda item for Town Meeting that would address the zoning of cannabis cafes for the Board of Selectmen’s next meeting on March 19.

Selectman Peter Teitelbaum disagreed with this action, saying that the town’s current zoning bylaws covered all marijuana related businesses. Slavin was not convinced.

As a compromised, Town Administrator Derek Sullivan suggested drafting a moratorium to go before voters at Town Meeting instead.

Under the moratorium, Sullivan said, cannabis cafes would be temporarily prohibited from opening in Wareham until zoning regulations could be figured out. A special Town Meeting could then be held at a later date if needed, he said.

Selectmen will vote whether or not to include the proposed moratorium next Tuesday.