Cape Cod town farmers unhappy with proposed pot zoning bylaw

TRURO, Mass. (AP) — Town planning experts are hoping to write a zoning bylaw to limit locations of legal marijuana facilities in Truro. But a cooperative of local farmers who want to grow marijuana and sell it wholesale to boost incomes in the region are not happy with the details so far.

“We’re totally against what they wrote,” High Dune Craft Cooperative member David DeWitt said.

That draft zoning bylaw, which will air July 25 at a public hearing, is “a big FU to our businesses,” DeWitt said.

Planning Board Chairman Steven Sollog said the draft bylaw is a compilation of existing laws put together by the town’s attorney, the town planner and members of the Planning Board. The bylaw would need at least a two-thirds vote to pass at a town meeting, and “that’s not always easy,” Sollog said.

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Overall, in Truro, 61 percent of voters approved a 2016 statewide ballot question legalizing the sale and use of marijuana. In addition to the tension that has arisen over the draft zoning bylaw, town officials are in the midst of considering the cooperative’s draft host community agreement, which is required as part of the farm group’s state license application. A discussion has arisen in that arena over the town asking for advance money to review the draft agreement, said the cooperative’s attorney, Michael Fee.

Fee asked at a June 20 Planning Board meeting to work with town officials toward a consensus on the draft bylaw to present at the special town meeting planned in early September. Fee said after that June 20 meeting he was invited by Town Manager Rae Ann Palmer to call her office to set up some discussion.

Two days earlier, Fee had sent a letter to Sollog with suggested revisions for the draft bylaw, and had outlined areas that could be changed to consider “the special circumstances facing cultivators.”

“None of us have a lot of experience doing this,” Fee said. “It’s going to be prevalent in just a matter of weeks.” Discussion and consensus-building can lead to a bylaw that serves all needs, he said.

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The option to apply for a “craft marijuana cooperative” license was added to the state’s adult-use marijuana legislation after a push by state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, and state Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown. The license allows groups of small-scale growers to collaborate and share costs to produce “craft marijuana,” which can decrease the influence of the existing black market, produce a high-quality product and protect against corporate interests driven only by the bottom line, according to a statement from Cyr.

As written currently, the proposed bylaw in Truro would require all recreational and medical marijuana facilities to have a special permit and a site plan review by the planning board. All marijuana facilities would be allowed in the Route 6 business district and retail stores could expand into the business centers in Truro and North Truro. Craft marijuana cooperative and marijuana microbusiness licensees would be allowed in the town’s residential zoning district with a cultivation cap of 5,000 square feet of marijuana plant canopy per property.

In further restrictions on recreational facilities, the draft bylaw limits the number of retailers allowed in Truro to 20 percent of the number of off-premises alcohol retail licenses issued in Truro. The town of Truro has seven alcohol retailers with annual off-premises licenses and two with seasonal licenses, said state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission Executive Director Ralph Sacramone.

Also in the draft bylaw, recreational marijuana establishments other than retailers would be limited to only one facility in Truro, and all recreational marijuana establishments would be required to be in stand-alone structures.

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As it stands now, Truro has no zoning regulations for legal marijuana land use. At the April 24 annual town meeting, the cooperative farmers prevailed when a moratorium sought by the Select Board through mid-November on the use of land or structures for medical or recreational marijuana use was indefinitely postponed by voters.

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