The hearing was held in the gym at Crescent Park School. Bethel Citizen photo by Samuel Wheeler

BETHEL — Last Wednesday a public hearing on marijuana ordinances was held at Crescent Park School.

The event lasted just more than an hour.

Background

There are nine marijuana ordinances in total, with five focusing on adult-use marijuana and four focusing on medical marijuana. Residents will be voting on all nine ordinances.

Each ordinance contains 1,000-foot setbacks. The Marijuana Committee and Ordinance Review Committee agreed to extend the setbacks from 500 feet, which is the state standard.

Planning assistant Sarah Tucker said at an April 22 select board meeting that this would “effectively eliminate any chance of any of these activities occurring within Bethel Village.”

The Ordinance Review Committee drafted stricter odor standards, which would require the use of some type of system to mitigate any smell.

The vote on the ordinances will be Tuesday, June 11, by secret ballot.

A “yes” vote means that citizens are voting in favor of the ordinances, with the listed restrictions. A “no” vote means that citizens are rejecting the ordinances.

Copies of the ordinances can be viewed at the Bethel Town Office.

Discussion

“If the town passes these ordinances it will be condoning a federally illegal activity,” resident Rick Whitney said. “I hope the town will vote this down.”

He added that he does not think that any of the ordinances have any protection setbacks for churches.

Setbacks of 1,000 feet are for schools, recreational areas and daycare centers.

“All churches are covered in the Bethel zone except for the one in West Bethel,” Pat McCartney said.

McCartney is a member of the Marijuana Committee.

Ellen Whitney added that there is a church in East Bethel that is not covered, either.

“To me to include churches is making the assumption that everybody in that church is against marijuana,” resident Jewel Clark said. “I don’t think it is up to us to make that assumption.”

Clark is a member of the Marijuana Committee.

Resident Mike Everett said he believes if the ordinances pass the town will experience a curb in its black market.

“If it’s regulated your black market is not going to be as big. There will be less access to kids,” Everett said.

Jessica Badone wondered what the next step would be if the ordinances are not approved.

Selectman Pete Southam said he is unsure what would happen next if the ordinances are rejected.

Badone owns and operates Pine Tree Glass Art in Bethel

“I do not think opting out is a good option. This will bring people to the town,” Badone said.

Everett agreed with Badone, saying that his new business, which opened recently, has already welcomed many new faces.

“I’ve seen people in this store from this town that I never thought I’d seen in there,” Everett said. “We’ve serviced more than 340 clients in one month and most of those people are coming in for pain, or they can’t sleep, we got cancer patients coming in.”

Everett said he’s also had people with reciprocal licenses come to his store from out of state.

Resident Jessie Perkins asked when the ordinances would go into effect if they are passed.

Everett said people would have to get their state license first.

Resident Savannah Sessions said she disagrees with the 1,000-foot setbacks and thinks it paints a bad image for the town. Sessions also said that longer setbacks have not proven to be any more effective than the state standard.

“We tried to come up with a distance of setbacks that most people would understand and find reasonable,” Clark said.

Selectmen Andy Whitney and Lloyd Sweetser were not present at the hearing.

 

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