On October 10th of this year, a Special Town Meeting was held to discuss topics ranging from pedestrian-traffic interaction regulation to the licensing of marijuana products. Every year, the Town of Nantucket gathers registered voters of the island and holds an Annual Town Meeting (ATM) to discuss and vote upon various articles regarding local developments. If all topics are not addressed, or new issues come about, the Town can also hold what are called Special Town Meetings (STM’s) throughout the year. In an age of hostile political discourse, it is local engagements like these that keep the collaborative and productive spirit of democracy intact. Of the 9,038 registered voters on the island, at least 5% of them must be present for the determination of certain articles per STM requirements posted on the Nantucket Town website. Because only 384 registered voters attended this STM, articles 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14 and 15 did not reach the quota required for action.
Articles that did reach a verdict included article 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 13, and 16. Due to the confusing language that legislation can sometimes display, the articles in question have been articulated in a way that may be easier to understand.
Article 1, Zoning Bylaw Amendment: Marijuana – Definitions. This article defined different terms in the marijuana industry such as “marijuana retailer[s] where consumers are permitted to consume marijuana and marijuana products on its premises,” as well as marijuana products and membership clubs where on site consumption may occur. The article also laid out guidelines for zoning issues with marijuana establishments. These zoning requirements include a minimum distance of 500 feet between recreational marijuana establishments and schools, whether they are public or private, and day care centers. It also stated that a minimum of 500 feet must separate two recreational marijuana establishments, except where they are co-located. It also established restrictions on such establishments, including the requirement of an annual Certificate of Inspection, a permanent structure for storage, as well as the prohibition of on-site consumption, delivery of marijuana products, and the use of these establishments as a home occupation. These amendments were passed with a 2/3rds majority. The Planning Board commented that this Zoning Bylaw will need to be updated in the future as the State develops new regulations.
Article 2, Zoning Bylaw Amendment: Recreational Marijuana – Use Chart Amendments. The second article proposed amendments to the Marijuana Use Charts including the prohibition of Adult On-Site Marijuana Social Consumption Operators and Marijuana Membership Clubs. These amendments were supported by the Finance Committee and passed with a 2/3rds majority.
Article 3, Bylaw Amendment: Marijuana, Public Consumption. Article 3 was adopted by a majority vote, with the Finance Committee’s motion to amend the Code of the Town of Nantucket to include a new chapter titled “Marijuana”. The main point of this chapter is in regards to the general consumption of marijuana, essentially stating that there will be no public consumption of marijuana in or upon public or private areas to which the public has “a right of access”. These places include, but are not limited to, public areas such as sidewalks, stairways, bridges, beaches, parks, cemeteries, and parking lots. It also establishes the prohibition of possession of marijuana products or accessories within buildings controlled in some way by the Town of Nantucket, including Town-owned housing. The chapter goes on to outline marijuana related legal violations, enforceable by any Town police officer. Penalties for non criminal violations of these all include a fine of $200.
Article 4, Bylaw Amendment: Marijuana, Marijuana Licensing. This article introduced another amendment to the Code of the Town of Nantucket under the same “Marijuana” chapter. This article specifically outlined the particular requirements of the process by which one may obtain and continue to use a legal Marijuana License. Essentially, it states that no one may operate a marijuana centered business unless given a license to do so by the Board of Selectmen. Furthermore, the Board of Selectmen essentially have the ability to request certain information included in the application form, as well as any fees that “may be reasonably determined from time to time by the Board of Selectmen.” After an applicant has submitted their forms, there will be a public hearing regarding the application within 30 days held by the Board of Selectmen. The article then goes on to outline the enforcement of regulations set up by these licenses, including the Board of Selectmen’s ability to request a court hearing of injunctive relief, if an operator fails to comply with the license regulations. Failure to comply with such legal actions will then result in first a $100 fine, and then a $300 fine, with each day of noncompliance adding on a separate violation. This article was not called for discussion, with the process being expedited by an unanimous voice vote.
Article 5, Bylaw Amendment: Marijuana, Limitation on Number of Marijuana Establishments. Unanimously voiced into motion, article 4 states that the number of “Adult Use Marijuana Retailers” shall only be 20% of year-round licenses issued to establishments granting the retail sale of alcoholic beverages not to be drunk on-site within the Town. Essentially, for every 5 liquor stores who are given a license, there can be one license distributed to a marijuana establishment. After being called to discussion by the public, article 5 was passed into motion with a unanimous voice vote.
Article 13, Appropriation: Prior Year Articles. Article 13 was a proposition to transfer $18,980 worth of funds from a proposed article in 2009 regarding the Air Traffic Control Tower to a 2017 article regarding the renovation of the Vault Room. The article was adopted by an unanimous voice vote.
Article 16, Bylaw: Single Use Plastics. This article describes single-use plastic products as “hazards to human health, marine life, wildlife, societal economies, and the environment.” Citing the need to protect Nantucket’s single source aquifer, the Town called for measures to be taken to prevent contamination of this fresh water. Because of this, the Town decided that the sale, distribution, or “otherwise use” of single-use plastics such as “Straws and drink stirrers; six-pack can and bottle flexible yokes; nip bottles; containers used in the sale of or distribution of food; drinking cups and lids; plates and eating utensils; drinking water in single serve polyethylene terephthalate containers; all non-recyclable #3-#7 plastic products” shall be illegal. Emergency situations provide an exemptions to this law, given that the use of single-use plastic products would provide a safe alternative to potentially contaminated public water. This article was moved to legislation with a majority voice vote from the public.
These articles were all addressed in STM 1, the motions of the three STM 2 articles will be provided at the next Town Meeting. The next Nantucket Annual Town Meeting will be held on April 1st, 2019.
By Owen Hudson