A group of Winthrop voters have begun the drive to collect enough signatures to have a special election with a ballot question seeking to ban recreational marijuana in Winthrop.
Currently, there is a local moratorium on licensing any retail marijuana shops, and it expires Dec. 31. If the town takes no action anyone can come in on Jan. 1 and open a shop. The town can see if the Attorney General can expand the moratorium to March 2019. Or the town can hold a special election asking to voters if they want a pot shop in town or not. To do this roughly 1,000 signatures are needed.
“The community is already collecting signatures,” said Town Manager Austin Faison.
Winthrop voted 53 percent in favor of recreational marijuana in November 2016.
The Planning Board is charged with determining the zoning bylaw for recreational pot shops and wrestled with the idea at their Monday night meeting.
“We have some procedural steps to take until the community has an opportunity to decide one way or another,” Faison said.
The marijuana license is based on the number of liquor licenses in a city or town. Since Winthrop has six liquor licenses there can only be one marijuana establishment. In the City of Lynn there could be up to eight marijuana licenses.
“Most of the authority lies with the state when it comes to licensing,” Faison said.
Faison is setting up a working group with police, fire, planning board, health and council to determine local authority, which is not much, although Faison said much of the licensing authority is at the state level. Security plans have to be submitted at the state level. The fire department would have a plan for dealing with butane, which is used in some of the oils. The departments will be able to interact with these businesses.
“In the event we become a local host community through the zoning process and a host community agreement, we have an opportunity for public hearings,” Faison said. “Each one of these is unique and each community is unique.”
Faison said he really wants to see which way the community leans on the issue of recreational marijuana.
“This is a great opportunity for civic engagement, this is what grassroots organizing is,” Faison said.