Jack Burlison: ‘No-brainer’: Amherst should change rules on pot cultivation facilities

  • AP file photo AP file photo

Friday, May 10, 2019

I am currently a senior at Amherst College. During this last semester, I took a class which focused on active citizenship, specifically within our local Amherst community; in order to do this, we attended various local government meetings of our choice.

I am sure that the residents of Amherst feel the complicated dynamic of coexisting with UMass and Amherst students, while also being aware of a clear division. By attending these meetings, we hoped to begin breaching this gap.

One of the meetings I recently attended was that of the Amherst Zoning Subcommittee, in which a private real estate developer delivered a presentation on the Amherst zoning laws regarding marijuana cultivation and manufacturing. Amherst’s zoning laws require that all marijuana facilities, whether that be cultivation or development, must be at least 300 feet away from any residences.

In contrast, the Massachusetts’ state zoning restrictions, which were the restrictions the developer wanted Amherst to switch to in regards to cultivation facilities, requires no distance between the facilities and residences.

However, these state guidelines do maintain that the facilities must not disrupt nearby residences with the sounds or smell they produce.

Honestly, this change seems like a no-brainer for Amherst to implement. There would still exist a 300-foot restriction on marijuana retail facilities so that town residents would avoid the same issues that Northampton residents are currently facing with the increased traffic due to the new dispensary.

As I understand, a marijuana facility would pay a 3 percent local tax, which could be put toward things like increasing the budget on town infrastructure. In the long run, it would encourage more commercial marijuana facilities to develop in Amherst; it is only a matter of time before other states approve of legalization and so Amherst needs to establish itself in this industry so that it can maximize the economic profits in the future.

It would be disappointing if Amherst did not seize the opportunity to capitalize on these financial benefits, which could help the community immensely.

Jack Burlison