Chatham Selectman Shareen Davis was right when she said that proposed general and zoning bylaws prohibiting the sale of recreational marijuana, as written, are too broad. The same can be said of similar bylaws that will go before voters in Harwich and other Cape towns.
As Davis said recently, nobody is advocating opening up a pot shop on Chatham's Main Street. Rather, she wants to preserve the ability of local residents to pursue economic opportunities in this burgeoning industry, including cultivation, testing laboratories and product manufacturing. Under the bylaws, these industrial activities would be completely banned.
A better strategy would be to zone these activities industrial and relegate them to Commerce Park. Retail sales to the public could still be prohibited, but at least that approach would leave it open for local entrepreneurs – as well as the town, through tax revenue – to benefit from what will surely be a growing industry. Officials always seem to be bemoaning the lack of year-round industry on the Cape; with the bylaws as currently written, they are intentionally undermining potential economic activity.
While recent rulings by the U.S. Justice Department may indicate otherwise, the genie is out of the bottle and eventually – probably not with this administration, but certainly in the near future – federal laws related to marijuana will change, if only because of pressure from states where voters have supported more liberal pot regulations.
If Chatham selectmen, who voted 4-1 to support the general bylaw – with Davis dissenting – or the planning board, which will hold a public hearing soon on a similar zoning amendment, are unwilling to alter the bylaws, it should be done by residents from town meeting floor.