CLARENDON — The first draft of an ordinance that would ban marijuana sales in town is heavily modeled after one passed by the city of Newport.
“My part of this so far is I’ve talked to the gentleman in Newport, Vermont, who designed, crafted the one there, his name is Seth Disanto, he’s the police chief there,” said Art Peterson, head of the marijuana ordinance committee, at a Select Board meeting on Feb. 25. “He wrote the one this is virtually copied from. I talked to him a little bit about what he did, why he did it, I researched the Vermont statutes, annotated, they’re on here, just to get some background on what they mean.”
Over the summer, the Select Board and Planning Commission both talked briefly about crafting a marijuana ordinance for Clarendon, but the consensus at the time was the Legislature hadn’t moved far enough along with creating a taxed, regulated market for it, and so there was little reason to ban sales locally. Since then, there’s been motion in the Legislature, namely the Senate voting on Friday to advance a bill that would create commercial regulations for marijuana sales effective by April 2021.
Peterson was tapped by the Select Board on Feb. 4 to head up the local marijuana committee. Peterson said that Clarendon resident John Colvin has agreed to join him. He said they’ve been talking online but haven’t met in person to discuss the matter.
“John Colvin has reached out to towns that also have ordinances,” said Peterson at the Feb. 25 meeting. “Seth DiSanto said I’m one of many who’ve gotten a hold of him to do the same thing. John Colvin is talking to Ludlow, Weathersfield, even Rutland City is fooling around with something. This is happening throughout, from what I can gather at this point.”
Peterson said he’s only made minor changes to the Newport ordinance that tailor it to Clarendon.
“It made no sense to me to put our own words in here,” Peterson said. “This one is on the books and working.”
Select Board Chairman Mike Klopchin said there might ultimately be legal challenges to such ordinances, but given they’ve been passed in Vermont and other places, that might not be an issue.
Peterson said that based on his research, the town has the authority to pass such an ordinance.
“I would submit it’s better to have this and make somebody fight to get their lousy, crappy store here,” he said.
Selectman Robert Congdon Jr. said he’d been questioned by constituents about how far the ordinance would go, and if it would affect things like hemp and CBD oil.
“I’m not an expert on this and don’t ever want to be,” said Peterson. “As far as tinctures, oils, solvents and edibles, when I think of this being written by a police chief in a city in this state, I have to think there’s a pretty good reason this has been prohibited. I don’t know what those reasons are, I don’t know what a guy can do with oil that doesn’t have marijuana in it, but there’s probably a way he can do something with it and mix it with something, I don’t know. We can look into it.”
Peterson said he and Colvin will do more research and perhaps refine the draft ordinance.
“One thing that’s been suggested to me is we keep this out of the zoning realm and in the ordinance realm,” he said. “Ordinances affect behavior, zoning affects building, people and places.”