SALISBURY — The city could begin opening the door for the sale of commercial cannabis with the invention of a recreational bud overlay district as early as the spring.
The proposed recreational bud overlay district — similar to the newly created medical marijuana overlay district, which makes it possible for the operation of such establishments in particular regions of town — would designate a place where cannabis could be marketed commercially.
In accordance with Town Manager Neil Harrington, the proposed new overlay district must be at least 500 feet or less from a school, church, public beach, park, park or other areas where kids congregate.
“We’re following the identical procedure as we did medical marijuana,” Harrington said. “Should we adopt a bylaw, which is our intent, then you are able to apply for a recreational retail marijuana license the moment the zoning moves into position.”
But the rollout of the new industry was postponed until the state Cannabis Control Commission releases its guidelines in March.
The town had enacted a temporary moratorium on medicinal marijuana facilities shortly after the 2016 vote but could approve the development of the medical marijuana overlay district in the spring of 2017.
Four medical marijuana growers then approached the city about setting up shop, using Salem-based Alternative Therapies Group eventually being accepted by the Board of Selectmen late last year.
“The same process will maintain true with recreational bud,” Harrington said. “We will do the zoning bylaw first, we’ll receive suggestions, those individuals must be licensed by the Board of Selectmen, they must also have host community agreements with the town. If we are able to reach agreements with one or more, then we’ll have one or more recreational establishments.”
Voters at October’s Town Meeting declared a temporary moratorium on the sale of recreational marijuana, which will run out at the end of this season. Harrington said, if the new overlay district were to be approved, the moratorium would expire when the overlay district is enacted.
“That is a similar process that communities across the country are following,” Harrington said. “We’re really doing anything else, except that additional communities whose voters didn’t vote for recreational bud (in November 2016) such as Andover are currently banning retail sales completely. We are not trying to prohibit recreational marijuana since the majority of Salisbury Republicans voted in favor that statewide ballot.”
Harrington said he expects the acceptance of the recreational bud overlay district to go before voters at the spring Town Meeting, May 14.
“Our suggestion would be to visit the spring Town Meeting on this overlay zone and to find that zoning amendment to our bylaws approved,” he explained. “When it is approved and signed off by the attorney general, then someone could submit an application for a medical marijuana license within the city.”