Council green-lights medical marijuana cultivation

Council green-lights medical marijuana cultivation

WOONSOCKET – After more than a year of lobbying by those who see medical marijuana cultivation as an economic opportunity, the City Council voted unanimously Monday to allow large-scale cultivation within city limits, approving for the first time an ordinance establishing the necessary zoning requirements.

The ordinance allows licensed cultivation of marijuana in existing buildings on industrial-zoned lots of five acres or more. Marijuana must be cultivated for medical purposes with intent to deliver to a state-regulated medical marijuana dispensary and cannot be used for recreational or retail purposes. The measure also requires that buildings used for marijuana cultivation be set back 225 feet from the nearest residential property line or 1,000 feet from a school property line and mandates the building include a security system linked to the city’s public safety departments.

Councilors and residents had little to say Monday prior to voting on the issue, which has played out through numerous public meetings and work sessions over the past year.

Leading the effort to legalize medical marijuana cultivation in the city is Gerry Cayer, manager of the Nyanza Mill at 159 Singleton St., a property he says would be ideal for large-scale cultivation. Cayer reacted to the news Monday, saying he would immediately begin targeting marijuana cultivation as a potential use for a space within the mill that has stood vacant for the past 15 years.

“If definitely opens the door. I just think it’s going to put us in a positive direction,” he said.

Prior to its passage, councilors resolved a small snag in the measure after Planning Director Joel Matthews informed them the original draft of the ordinance, which required a setback of 300 feet between a cultivation building and a residential property line, would exclude the Nyanza Mills property from eligibility. Councilors amended the measure to require a 225-foot setback, a change Matthews assured them would not add any buildings to a list of potential cultivation sites already compiled by the city’s planning and zoning officials.

Councilor Richard Fagnant, a strong proponent of the measure, recommended the council remove a measure requiring a six-foot chain link fence around any properties used for cultivation. Based on his own observations of cultivation sites around the state, he told councilors, fences are not necessary at the facilities, which are generally inconspicuous and already have security systems.

“When they close at night and weekends, their concern is not someone breaking into the place,” he said. “We’re putting restrictions on something that’s not rocket science.”

Councilors opted to keep the fence requirement but amended the measure to allow the public safety director to waive the requirement if deemed appropriate.

Fagnant also questioned what would happen to “home growers,” patients and licensed caregivers who grow a small number plants for personal medical use. The Department of Business Regulation estimates about 80 of these licensed home growers cultivate small amounts of marijuana in Woonsocket, a practice allowed under state law but prohibited by Woonsocket zoning ordinance. City Solicitor John DeSimone confirmed home growing would still be prohibited under the new ordinance, leaving the city’s public safety officers in the already tricky situation of trying to enforce a ban on a practice widespread across the state.

Under the ordinance, large-scale medical marijuana growers must have a valid license from the Department of Business Regulation. The ordinance requires a second vote of approval before formal passage.

Comments

sounds like the City is setting itself up for a bunch of new law suits.
#1 how can the city dictate your customer base. When the state legalizes recreational marijuana is still going to be the city's position.
#2 If the state law allows home growing why should this ordinance ban that practice. The home grower will not be allowed to buy from these cultivators.
But elected officials still allow alcohol, cigarettes and opioids to be sold anywhere and everywhere