CLARENDON — A few residents have expressed concerns about the town’s efforts to ban marijuana sales, though their concerns were more with the process than the end result.
For the past several months, the Select Board has worked on an ordinance that would ban marijuana sales in town, ahead of any retail legalization efforts by the Legislature. It passed the ordinance in July, but the board felt the language in the document wasn’t specific enough to prohibit recreational sales so didn’t post it for the required 60 days, opting instead to tinker with it further.
At Monday’s Select Board meeting, after several residents expressed concerns about the board’s process, it agreed to have a draft of the proposed ordinance available to the public sooner.
Board Chairman Michael Klopchin said in a Tuesday interview the board will warn a special meeting for either Monday or Tuesday of next week where the language in the ordinance will be tweaked. A copy of it will be available to the public. The draft will then be looked at during a workshop session scheduled for 5 p.m. Aug. 26. Klopchin said the board’s regular meeting will begin at 6 p.m. that evening, where he expects the board will vote once again on the ordinance.
Should the ordinance pass, it will then be posted for 60 days, allowing anyone opposed to it to circulate a petition calling for a townwide vote.
Klopchin said in the interview Tuesday only a few words need to be changed in the ordinance to have it accomplish the board’s goal.
“We noticed that ordinance would only speak to dispensaries, so if I wanted to open up a pot shop, it’s not covered, according to what we’re hearing,” Klopchin told the audience on Monday. “That’s why it was never posted.”
Clarendon resident Alf Strom-Olsen asked if there would be a draft available to the public prior to the Aug. 26 meeting. Klopchin initially said there wouldn’t be, that the board has the right to draft, vote on and post ordinances that the public can later petition a vote on.
“I know what the law tells you you can do, but why don’t you give the voters a little bit. … just because you can doesn’t mean you have to. Just give us time to look at it,” said Strom-Olsen. He said there’s no rush in passing this ordinance since the Legislature isn’t in session for another several months.
Strom-Olsen indicated that he doesn’t want marijuana sold in Clarendon, and his issue with this ordinance is more with how it’s being created, that more ordinances could be passed in the same fashion with little voter input. He was skeptical about how much public involvement the current process uses, saying it puts more of a burden on voters who don’t have much spare time to address these issues.
Klopchin said it would require approximately 150 people to sign a petition calling for a town vote on the ordinance, which is far more than what would show up at a public meeting.
“This is not something that we, all of a sudden, are going to do at next meeting,” said Selectman Bob Bixby. “We’ve been discussing this … since January or February, I believe this discussion started, and there’s been a number of meetings where there’s been discussions on this. It came to the point where we feel we’re ready to go, and I feel I’m ready to go with what the state will allow us to do. If we get the petition with the signatures then I certainly have to change my mind, putting it out to the people, that’s for sure.”
Strom-Olsen said he wasn’t comfortable with the notion of the board reviewing the ordinance then voting on it an hour later.