Regulating Recreational Marijuana in Newton: Brenda Noel, Ward 6 City Councilor

Regulating Recreational Marijuana in Newton: Brenda Noel, Ward 6 City Councilor


Hi Ward 6ers! It’s Brenda Noel,l your
Ward 6 City Councilor. I want to talk to you today about something that’s on a
lot of folks minds. That is the new recreational marijuana shop that’s being
proposed in Four Corner. I think it’s important for us to start at the
beginning on how we got here. In 2016, there was a vote to legalize
recreational marijuana. In Newton, 57% of the folks voted to confirm that we were
going to legalize marijuana. I, in 2016, actually voted against it — not because I
didn’t believe in the value of medicinal marijuana and not because I didn’t want
marijuana to be decriminalized. But I was really concerned that we weren’t ready
to regulate this and that we hadn’t fully thought out what the implications
would be to have recreational marijuana shops in our community. The governor at
the time insisted upon a moratorium. The City Council voted to extend that for an
additional six months so we could get ready in our community to figure out how
we were going to implement this. In 2018, there was a referendum. There was an
organization called Opt Out that moved forward a ballot question to ask folks,
do we want to not have recreational marijuana shops in Newton. The City
Council had been hearing from folks, myself included, on the question of maybe folks don’t want as many as 8 but maybe they want a smaller amount that
they’re comfortable with. The City Council put forward the option on that
referendum for folks to decide upon two or four shops in Newton. What’s
interesting about that vote is both votes failed. Both referendums failed. And
what’s even more interesting is they failed in Ward 6. The folks in
Ward 6 said they don’t want us to put further conditions on recreational
marijuana shops. There was a comfort level in Ward 6 to up to eight shops
and I can talk a little bit about why they’re up to 8 shops —
that’s because we’re regulating marijuana like alcohol and that the
State said that you can have up to 20% marijuana shops in your community that
you have alcohol stores. So that would give us up to eight. Legally we can’t
discriminate up to eight shops. I like to be data-informed when I make
choices about things. I also like to work with my constituents and understand what
the data tells us. What are the legal parameters around this type of
establishment. So let’s talk for a minute about the
proposed location. Four Corners is zoned for business. We need to have this
proposal come officially through the City Council to make sure that it meets
all the state legal requirements. So what can we do? What can we do to address some
of the concerns of our community? I’ve spoken with the Chief of Police,
Chief MacDonald. He’s informed me that there have not been traffic concerns at
the current recreational marijuana shop on Washington Street, Garden Remedies. He
attributes that to the fact that it’s appointment only.
I support appointment only. I think that is an absolute requirement for any
recreational shop in Newton, that it be appointment only. He also informed me
that he doesn’t have folks who are leaving there that he’s pulled over for
DUIs. There has been no cases to date in that area of folks who are using and
then getting behind a wheel. So this gives us some comfort. People are
concerned about the hours that these stores are going to be open. We can
regulate those hours through the Special Permit process. At a recent community
meeting we had on Thursday night, people were concerned about the number of
security guards. I didn’t know the answer at the time, but yes, we can regulate the
number of security guards through the Special Permit process. Some levers we
can use in the Special Permit process to ensure safety, to ensure that this is not
disruptive to the community, but still being responsive to the requests of Ward
6ers that there be access to recreational marijuana in an
appropriately sited location. The issues that you’ve asked me to
handle — the issues that you’ve asked me to represent for you — are complex. I get
it. That’s my job. I don’t shy away from these difficult things. But I’m here to
represent everyone in Ward 6. I’m here to make sure that the ways in which our
community is changing represents the needs and the wants of all of the voters
Ward 6, I want to hear from all of you on this issue. I want to invite you to a
special office hours Saturday morning November 2, from 9 to 10 at the Dunkin
Donuts in Four Corners. I want to hear from all the voices in Ward 6 and make
sure that whatever happens in Four Corners makes sense for our community.
Thank you very much. Pease be in touch through my email, Facebook, or website.

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