Marijuana Zoning to Be a Hot Issue at Millis Town Meeting May 14

J.D. O’Gara
Issue Date: 
May, 2018
Article Body: 

As Massachusetts moves toward opening retail outlets for marijuana for adult recreational use, many towns, such as Holliston, Medway and Bellingham, have voted to ban retail sales of recreational marijuana. Millis, after having looked at the issue through its Retail Marijuana Committee, has not. What remains to be seen is how this market will be regulated, and a zoning bylaw up for vote at the May 14th Town Meeting is likely to be a widely debated one.
What is certain is that one company, CommCan, Inc., owned by Marc and Ellen Rosenfeld, will be definitely be opening its doors for sale of both medical and recreational marijuana in the town.
“We’ve been in it for medical for three years,” says Ellen Rosenfeld. “In the regulations by the state, they allowed people that are involved in the medical marijuana side, if they had a provisional or a final registration from the Department of Public Health by June 1, 2017, they had priority status to transition to adult use recreational.” Those groups, she says, “can convert to recreational even if the town changed the zoning for recreational, even if they don’t want recreational (sales) in zoning IP2.”
That being a done deal, Rosenfeld, whose company has a 60,000 square-foot growing facility in Medway (that is only half built out at this point), will be beginning construction of a 3,000 square-foot retail shop in May at 1525 Main Street.
“If this one (zoning) measure doesn’t pass at Town Meeting, then the moratorium extends through the end of the year, and I will not be able to open until January first,” says Rosenfeld.
CommCan, Inc., which has been growing and harvesting, will have products to sell some time in June. If they can’t sell recreational use marijuana in Millis before the end of the year, they’ll sell it at their retail location on Route 9 in Southborough for the time being.
According to Nicole Riley, Chair of Millis’ Retail Marijuana Committee (RMC), the advisory committee proceeded with an abundance of caution in preparing recommendations for a town approach to retail for the Board of Selectmen.
Riley explains that the RMC considered developing an overlay district, but, she says, the Cannabis Control Commission had yet to indicate whether it would honor town moratoriums. “We thought we didn’t have time to develop an overlay district,” says Riley. “There was concern that they were not going to honor moratoriums past June first.”
The RMC, then, voted 4-2 to submit a proposed zoning bylaw to Selectmen for the May Town Meeting vote, with the idea that the town could go back and later amend the bylaw to include an overlay district.
“We placed all adult recreational use marijuana in the ip2 district,” says Riley. “However, we included a 1,500-foot setback from certain protected uses.” Those protected uses, which the group took from the adult entertainment bylaw already in place for the town, included schools, playgrounds libraries, child care facilities, video arcades, places of worship, and any other facility that minors congregate in an organized fashion, as well as residential districts.
In fact, those protected uses are already in Millis bylaws for medical marijuana, with a 1,000-foot setback.
Although they realized the 1,500-foot setback was restrictive, the RMC presented the zoning bylaw to the Board of Selectmen, who at the time voted unanimously to send the proposed bylaw to the Planning Board for public hearing, but before that public hearing could occur, a potential business stepped forward: 617 Therapeutic Health Center, which submitted a letter of intent to the Board of Selectmen that they were interested in establishing a medical marijuana facility at 1073 Main Street. 617 hoped to later add non-medical manufacture and cultivation to the site. They discussed their proposal with Selectmen on April 2, 2018 for a roughly 70,000 square-foot facility. Initially, 617 THC hoped to include retail in their model, but the company indicated at the meeting it was prepared to convert those plans to a solely cultivation and processing facility. If 617 THC were allowed to proceed as a cultivator and manufacturer only, Millis could see an estimated $100,000 per year for the first five years in a host agreement with the company, and an estimated $150,000 per year in tax revenue after that, according to Craig Schultze, Millis Finance Committee Chair.
Under the RMC’s proposed bylaw, 617 Therapeutics would be precluded from operating any part of its establishment not only due to the 1,500-foot setback, but also because the property abuts residential property and Ryan Family Amusements.
On April 9th, the Board of Selectmen then voted to make a couple of changes to the bylaw proposed by the RMC. This change would offer two setback versions, one with a 1,500-foot setback for adult use retail and the other with a 500-foot setback for all other adult uses, which would include cultivation, manufacturing and testing ability. In addition, residential and video arcade districts were removed from the list of protected uses for non-retail marijuana business.
With a vote of 2-1 (McAffrey and Macinnes for; Barnes against), the Millis Board of Selectmen voted to put this amended zoning bylaw on the Town Warrant.
On Tuesday, April 10th, the Planning Board held a public hearing on the proposed bylaw and in the end, the Planning Board was split in its vote of support for it, with two members for it, two against and one abstaining.
The next day (Wednesday, April 11th), the Retail Marijuana Committee met with regard to where they stand on the proposed bylaw amended by the Board of Selectmen. Two voted for it; two voted in support of the RMC version; and two voted in support of taking the time to come up with an overlay district for November’s town meeting. At Local Town Pages press time, the committee was scheduled to meet again on May 2nd for another vote. That update will be available in the online version of this story at
The Finance Committee too, has held off making a recommendation of its support. At press time, the Finance Committee had also scheduled another meeting with a possible vote on May 2nd, following the RMC meeting. An update with the results of that meeting will be available at
So far, 617 THC is hopeful the town will be open to working with them.
“Understanding we have been engaged with Millis for only six weeks, our initial conversations with town officials have been very positive,” said Richard Gin, CFO for 617 Therapeutic Health Centers.  “The potential to revitalize 1073 Main Street and provide a significant economic impact to Millis is real and we are excited about continuing that conversation. The Board of Selectmen language allows us the opportunity to apply for a special permit and engage in a full dialogue with the Town.”
Also on the warrant for May is the question of a 3% sales tax on all adult use recreational marijuana sales, and an article setting a limit on the number of retail marijuana establishments in town.
What happens moving forward with 617 THC, or with any marijuana-related business in Millis, will entirely depend on what voters think, and if committee votes are any indication, the subject will be hotly debated at the May 14th Town Meeting. On April 23, 2018, Millis BOS Chair Jim McAffrey said, “The only board that has stepped forward is the Board of Selectmen, and that is the warrant article (26) to be discussed, recommended, or dismissed … I would urge people to come and hear the debate. There is no purer form of democracy than theTown Meeting.”