CLARENDON — After passing an ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries, the Select Board’s chairman instructed town officials not to publicly post the ordinance, deciding the local law didn’t go as far as the board had intended.
The Select Board voted unanimously on July 22 to pass the ordinance. The meeting was filmed by PEG TV.
Select Board Chairman Mike Klopchin said in an interview Monday that shortly after speaking to WCAX, it was learned that the ordinance only banned medical marijuana dispensaries, as it relied on the state’s definition of “dispensary,” which he said doesn’t cover “pot shops” or recreational sales. Klopchin said the board wishes to ban all marijuana sales in town, preempting any moves by the Legislature to create a legalized recreational market.
For town ordinances to take effect, they must be posted publicly for a certain number of days, allowing citizens to petition them for a public vote if they so desire. Klopchin said he directed town employees not to post the ordinance, meaning it can’t take effect.
He said the board will meet on Aug. 12, when it will announce its intention to vote on an updated version of the ordinance that will ban all marijuana sales. The vote, he said, will take place at the Aug. 22 meeting.
The town has been discussing a marijuana ordinance since autumn. Initial conversations didn’t go far, but once the Legislature convened and talk of creating a legalized recreational market got serious, the board ramped up its efforts, appointing Clarendon resident Art Peterson to head a research committee.
Peterson supplied the board with ordinances from other towns where bans had been passed, namely Newport. Many of the board’s concerns revolved around how well its ordinance could withstand legal scrutiny, and how well it would mesh with whatever the Legislature passed.
The Legislature ultimately didn’t pass new marijuana laws this past session, however many feel the topic will be broached again.
Klopchin said Monday there has been no talk or rumor of anyone wanting to open a dispensary in town, for medical purposes or otherwise.
He said his concerns about marijuana stem from his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam, and later his work in the private sector. When he was serving in the military in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968, he said, there was an incident where the base he was on was infiltrated by Viet Cong, who were able to blow up a fueling station. He said the Viet Cong involved snuck up on those assigned to guard duty and took their weapons. According to Klopchin, they were able to do this because those guards were high on marijuana at the time.
When he returned from overseas, Klopchin said he saw people’s work performance suffer because of marijuana use.
Killington is also considering an ordinance that would ban medical marijuana dispensaries in town, though officials there say the document’s language doesn’t contemplate non-medical sales. The Killington Select Board voted on July 16 to hold a public hearing for the proposed ordinance on Aug. 20. Officials said the hearing isn’t required by law, but it’s been the town’s habit to hold them over such matters anyway.