Published in the March 16, 2017 edition

By Bill Laforme

NORTH READING – By a 124-36 margin, Town Meeting voters approved a zoning bylaw banning commercial sales of recreational marijuana in North Reading, following a decision by the state’s voters to legalize it back in November.

The warrant article voted on Monday night at town meeting was a zoning change, meaning that it needed a two-thirds vote from those in attendance to pass. At least 150 residents must be in attendance to have a quorum at town meeting.

Among residents who spoke, the arguments were largely consistent with those raised at previous public hearings on the topic. Supporters of the warrant article cited health concerns about marijuana use and the drain on local law enforcement, while opponents cited the potential revenues the town was likely giving up, as well as what could be called a certain double standard in comparison to alcohol.

A handful of other nearby towns are also reportedly considering their own bans on commercial marijuana sales.

Monday’s town meeting zoning move does not affect the ability of residents to grow or possess their own marijuana, consistent with the state referendum passed in November – nor does it apply in any way to medical marijuana. It merely seeks to ban any business in town from selling marijuana for recreational use.

Under guidelines laid out by the state attorney general’s office, the town meeting vote was one step toward the town being able to ban commercial marijuana businesses. The next step would come in the town election later this spring, when town voters will be asked on the ballot if they favor banning commercial marijuana establishments.