Hadley to vote on bylaw limiting pot cultivation

  • Blankets of frost known as trichomes on a budding marijuana flower at an artisanal cannabis farm in San Luis Obispo, California, Sept. 11, 2018. AP PHOTO/Richard Vogel

Staff Writer
Friday, April 12, 2019

HADLEY — With a moratorium on recreational marijuana sales and cultivation ending in less than two months, a zoning bylaw developed by town planners would require anyone interested in using Hadley’s rich soil to grow pot indoors and keep odors from leaving the site.

The Planning Board recently completed work on the language of the bylaw, which will come before voters at annual Town Meeting next month. The bylaw would establish a series of rules for both the cultivation of marijuana and sales of the adult-use product.

The vote on May 2 will come just weeks before the town’s moratorium on recreational marijuana ends on June 1.

Planning Board Clerk William Dwyer said the regulatory structure developed for Hadley is based on a model bylaw prepared by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.

The bylaw, Dwyer said, is the opportunity for residents to decide how marijuana will be regulated in Hadley. The bylaw needs to gain a two-thirds majority to pass.

Dwyer said failure to adopt the bylaw doesn’t mean that Hadley is prohibiting marijuana sales or harvesting.

“If this bylaw is rejected then there are no restrictions, except those set by the state,” Dwyer said.

Dwyer said almost all feedback on the bylaw at public hearings and other meetings was about where marijuana could be grown, observing that about 75 percent of Hadley land might be ideal for harvesting the crop.

“The big issue was people not wanting it grown in close proximity to their homes,” Dwyer said.

That included significant feedback from residents in North Hadley, particularly on Shattuck Road and neighborhoods off that road. A farmer earlier informed residents that he was considering using fields in that area to grow marijuana.

Marijuana grown for commercial purposes, rather than personal use, must be inside buildings, limited to 5,000 square feet of crop, and with no discernible odor off-premise, the bylaw says.

There is also a provision in the bylaw that mandates the buildings be dark to the sky, which means that hoop houses, a popular way of growing crops indoors, would not be allowed.

Still, Dwyer said many tobacco barns and other existing structures might be appropriate for marijuana cultivation, though the odor requirement could lead to the need for sophisticated ventilation systems, or for growers to choose variants of marijuana that don’t produce strong smells.

Under the bylaw, marijuana retailers, microbusinesses and craft marijuana cooperatives would need to get special permits and have site plan review done. They would be allowed to operate in the areas of town zoned for business and industry, but wouldn’t be allowed in residential or agricultural neighborhoods.

Other provisions of the bylaw include requiring any retailer or grower to be at least 500 feet from any school and 300 feet from any residence.

David Adams, a Shattuck Road resident, said he and other residents paying close attention to the bylaw are largely supportive of it. Adams said he hopes voters understand that if they turn down the bylaw, they are giving up all local control.

“I believe that most people close to the issue are satisfied that the bylaw protects neighborhoods sufficiently to warrant its approval,” Adams said.

Previously, Adams said the cultivation limits still could still prove marijuana is a lucrative crop, noting that a 5,000-square-foot greenhouse could generate $600,000 in product in a year.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.