In February, Kathleen Matos and Stephanie Zumbruski met with the board to discuss a potential medical marijuana dispensary in the town, which they said they hoped to submit an application to the state to establish. At the time, Matos said it was her understanding that townships could block a dispensary through local ordinances. At that meeting, Johnson said he’d come to the board years earlier to encourage them to start thinking about ordinances about marijuana, and he expressed his desire to not have the medical marijuana dispensary located in the town.
On Tuesday, Johnson said he felt it was time the town moved forward with its consideration of ordinances and said that if the matter is brought to a public vote, he would like to see two articles on the ballot: one asking if the voters would allow a medical marijuana dispensary, and one asking if they would allow for a recreational marijuana retail location, should a regulated recreational marijuana market become legal.
“Some people have said to me that they feel strongly about allowing the medical marijuana dispensary because they think it can help people,” said Johnson. “And I’d hate to have them vote yes to everything because of that and then they end up allowing for regulated recreational (retail establishments).”
Johnson said that it was his understanding, based on conversations he’d had, that there could be a push at the Legislature to legalize a regulated recreational marijuana market within the year.
Board member Dan Baliotti asked Johnson what he has against medical marijuana as police chief. “It’s still federally illegal,” said Johnson. “If it becomes federal and they allow it then I’m 100% for it, but right now since marijuana is still technically illegal federally, I’m not for it.”
Chair Josh Cohen said that while he’s not personally against medical marijuana, he has concerns about the strain a dispensary would put on the police force. Vice chair Vicki Capitani reminded the board that when the matter was originally discussed in February, Zumbruski said Dover’s reputation for its strong police force and fire department were deciding factors for where to pursue establishing the dispensary.
“And that’s great and I’m sure Randy is flattered,” said Cohen. “But I don’t think he wants to be tested with it.”
Board member Sarah Shippee said she would like to see samples of the language that has been used for similar ordinances in other towns. Johnson said he would work on getting sample language.
Capitani asked if Johnson was additionally asking for a potential ordinance to ban the use of medical or recreational marijuana, or if the special meeting ballot about ordinances would only address the establishment of dispensaries and regulated retail establishments, if and when a regulated retail market becomes legal. Johnson’s response at the meeting was unclear, but in an interview the following day, he clarified that the proposed ordinances would not address use of medical or recreational marijuana and would instead only pertain to dispensaries and retail establishments.
Despite a suggestion from Johnson that the board could adopt an ordinance themselves and use the public posting period to see if anyone petitioned it, the board ultimately decided to pursue a special meeting vote.
“I think it’s fair to let the electorate weigh in on this,” said Capitani. “Because I think it is a big deal. And if we’re not representing the people, I have a problem with that.”
Per the board, a vote will likely be held in June or July, with Cohen expressing a preference for June before school has let out and families begin traveling for the summer.