SOUTHWICK — Town Meeting voters passed a marijuana zoning bylaw last night and created an overlay district for medical marijuana growth and sales, excluding all recreational marijuana retail sales.
Last week, voters prohibited nonmedical marijuana retail at the ballot box.
Some residents Tuesday night were concerned because warrant articles included language about retail recreational sales, but Town Counsel Benjamin Coyne said it was voided because of last week’s prohibition vote.
Several residents spoke out against the articles and said the town should reconsider retail sales because buyers will take their business to other communities and Southwick will miss out on tax revenues.
Coyne addressed a question regarding future changes to the bylaw. A resident asked if the town would have to vote at the ballots again if there was a push for retail sales in the future.
“No,” said Coyne. “Once a bylaw is in place, the way to change it is to amend it. You do not need another ballot question.”
Resident Gina Patterson said she is “a transplant” from Hawaii and alluded to problems there related to marijuana. She questioned why people did not see the concerns with marijuana.
“Cigarettes are bad, opioids are bad, painkillers are bad, but recreational is good? Are you kidding me?” she said, which brought a round of applause from many voters in the Southwick Regional School auditorium.
Town Moderator James N. Putnam took control of the audience and said it was not time for debating marijuana, but to discuss the article.
Ryan Pease and Marcus Phelps, members of the subcommittee that developed the bylaws, told residents this was their opportunity to have some control over marijuana in Southwick.
“If you don’t pass this you will be left with the state regulations, so you could have cannabis anywhere,” Pease said.
Voters approved the articles with a two-thirds majority vote.
The Marijuana District Overlay map is available at the town clerk’s office.
Town Meeting voters also approved several purchases, including $240,000 for a Department of Public Works dump truck and $1.2 million for a ladder truck and pumper truck for the Fire Department.
Also approved were the $23 million town budget and $11 million school budget.