WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — Despite the state's vote of approval of medical marijuana last November, the Westborough Planning Board is proposing a bylaw to completely ban its proliferation in town.
Planning Board Chairman Lester Hensley laid out the proposed bylaw at a public hearing Tuesday evening, citing "plausible risk" if the law stands as written.
"It can be done right," Hensley said. "This is not the right way, and I think we are acting appropriately. We are advocating for the proper way to get it to the people and avoiding any oversight."
The board, concerned that such a ban might be overturned in court, also included a "fallback zoning provision" that would limit where dispensaries or agriculture could occur.
The board outlined its extensive study, highlighting several concerns that led to the proposed ban. Concerns included research indicating widespread abuse in other states after "similarly worded laws" were passed, concerns from police chief Alan Gordon about increased "drugged driving," increased use by the youth, and the documented level of crime that comes with dispensaries.
Also, marijuana is illegal under federal law, Hensley said. For that reason, banks will not work with dispensaries for fear of losing FDIC backing. Dispensaries and home suppliers deal with large amounts of cash and become targets for break-ins and home invasions, he said.
"I think it's reasonable for municipalities like Westborough to decide what is the best approach," Hensley said.
The bylaw will be placed on the March Town Meeting warrant, and it will be up to Westborough residents to decide whether the ban will be passed. Although the town voted in favor of Question 3 in November, the board said most people had probably not read the full six pages attached to the question and made the decision based on emotions.
"When people went and voted on Question 3, I really feel they didn't have a full understanding of the implementation of it," Planning Board member Joanne Mallozzi said.
Several Westborough town officials spoke in favor of the proposal, including Selectman Denny Drewry, who said he had voted in favor of Question 3.
"I didn't make the decision until I was in the booth and I thought of my parents," he said, noting their health issues. "I came here tonight because I wanted to hear more. ... I just feel like we have to move in that direction. I really support the article."
The board said that nothing in the bylaw suggested those who obtained the medicinal marijuana legally would be affected.
"This particular issue is a good example of the board acting as policymakers with concern for the community," Town Planner Jim Robbins said. "It's really amazing the amount that went into this."