Selectman Candidates Spar Over Pot Sale Comments

By: Tim Wood

Shareen Davis, left, and Seth Taylor. FILE PHOTOS

CHATHAM – In last-minute ads, fliers and emails, incumbent Selectmen Seth Taylor is criticizing comments made by challenger Shareen Davis regarding the retail sale of marijuana in town.

At the League of Women Voters candidate forum April 20, Davis said the town should not dismiss the retail sale of marijuana outright. Taylor also said the subject should be addressed “rationally” and that people should “not get carried away” about it.

In in an email sent out over the weekend, Taylor's campaign partially quotes Davis' statements on the subject and ignores his comments, which did not include any statement against retail sale of marijuana in town.

At the forum, Davis said that legalization of marijuana, approved at the November election, is “going to be here” and the town should look at regulating it like it does liquor stores as well as through zoning.

“It's premature to discuss this,” she said, adding that some see it as a good business opportunity. “This to me is an up and coming industry all over the country and we shouldn't be dismissive of the idea.” The town should take advantage of the opportunity and “hopefully see some businesses in town that will be able to sell marijuana.”

Taylor said that given the town's demographics, a year-round pot business would not likely be profitable here.

“I don't know too many 98-year-olds sitting around smoking a bone,” he said. Because marijuana is legal in the state, it's a subject that will have to be discussed, he said, adding that banning pot shops in Chatham will not stop residents from going elsewhere to buy marijuana and bring it home to use.

“The truth of the matter is this is something that legal in the town of Chatham, legal in the commonwealth, and we're going to have to talk about it, we're going to have to address it and we have to be sensible about it,” he said. “Let's take the time and breath and do it rationally and not get carried away.” Massachusetts, he added, is famous for its Blue Laws that he said “should have been buried a long, long time ago.”

A flyer attached to an email sent out last weekend states that Taylor “spent a career on the frontlines in the war on drugs” and does not support the same of recreational marijuana in Chatham shops. Taylor, who is now retired, worked as a special agent for the U.S. Treasury Department and Department of Homeland Security.

The email appears to have originated with Selectmen Amanda Love, who implies in the email that marijuana is responsible for the current “drug epidemic.” She states that Taylor's opposition to pot shops is one of the reasons she supports his candidacy.

An ad in the Cape Cod Times Tuesday, two days before the election, paid for by Taylor's campaign committee, uses the same language as contained in the flier attached to the email.

In a blog post on her website, Davis called the emails and fliers a “desperate last-minute smear” campaign that distort her comments at the April 20 forum.

“What I said was totally consistent with my approach to all matters of public policy in Chatham,” she wrote. “As with everything, I will keep an open mind on policies that affect the citizens of Chatham.” The subject was “academic,” she added, because the “there is nothing happening on the subject in Chatham or Massachusetts.” State officials have set July 1, 2018 as the earliest that retail pot sales can begin in the state, and are still developing rules and regulations around the law passed in last November's election.

Davis said the timing of the attack was “offensive” because it prevents an “effective response.”

Although the measure passed the state-wide vote, Chatham voted against legalizing marijuana in last November's election 2,611 to 1,924. In discussions earlier this year, most selectmen opposed allowing retail marijuana sales in town. Under the law approved in November, towns can opt out of retail pot sales via a ballot question. Selectmen considered developing a zoning bylaw and ballot initiative to go before voters next year.