FOXBORO – Recognizing that area communities have benefited from the growing market for legal cannabis products, Selectmen recently took the first steps toward allowing marijuana trade in Foxboro.
Board members voted Tuesday 3-1 to draft a zoning article at the city’s annual May meeting that would allow retail and/or marijuana cultivation, likely along the Route 1 corridor.
While board members have stopped short of publicly endorsing such a measure, they have suggested that such major projects in recent years have gained traction with local voters.
“I personally don’t use marijuana, but I know a lot of people who use marijuana,” said board member Stephanie McGowan, who supported the initiative along with Mark Elfman and President Lea Gibson. “People who are going to use marijuana are going to get it somewhere.”
Currently, township regulations prohibit commercial/recreational operations but exclude registered medical marijuana dispensaries, which are permitted under a special permit.
Board member Seth Ferguson voted against pursuing an article on the city meeting.
Earlier, Gibson explained that the city sent inquiries about the potential sale of recreational marijuana, sparking discussions about whether formal action should be brought before voters.
This wouldn’t be the first time Foxboro had thought about the marijuana issue.
In 2015, selectors voted unanimously to take no action on a proposal from the Empathy Bacon Center that would have established a medical marijuana dispensary at 24 Washington Street.
At the time, three selectors—John Gray, Chris Mitchell and David Feldman—suggested that townspeople might be more receptive after licensing protocols and other marijuana industry safeguards were better established.
Two years later, local voters decisively approved a non-binding referendum to ban recreational marijuana retail stores, as well as recreational marijuana growers, but not medical marijuana businesses.
The results of this vote were subsequently reported at the 2017 annual city meeting.
“For me personally, I think 2017 was something new and scary,” Gibson recalls. “I remember sitting at the city meeting and voting against it. (But) here we are after five years and it’s all around us.”
Attleboro, Mansfield, Plainville, North Attleboro, and Sharon now host marijuana facilities. None of these communities reported problems with the facilities, Gibson noted.
“To me, looking from another city, it doesn’t seem to have had much of an impact, except maybe helping them financially,” she said.
McGowan agreed, noting that public opinion had changed in recent years.
“What I’ve heard is that the hosting communities really benefit financially,” she said. “For me, it is worth looking into again.”
By filing a notice that not all townspeople would accept the normalization narrative, Reverend William Dudley, pastor of Union Church of South Foxboro, urged selectors to consider the implications of allowing local marijuana outlets.
“There is a human cost to that,” said Dudley, who told board members he’s made several drug overdoses and called marijuana a gateway drug. “So, before we look at the money so brilliantly, I have a whole history to give you in due course. I wonder if that will be part of your conversation.”
Gibson assured Dudley that all borough meeting articles were subject to scrutiny, including, in this case, a public hearing by the Planning Board and subsequent review by the Advisory Committee.
“We will all sit at the city meeting and we will all vote as a city,” she said. “But I would support putting it on the note to hear more and have those discussions.”