From counsel

posted Aug 15, 2017, 10:21 AM by Jason Hoch
Comprehensive guide from KP Law attached below. Covers most issues and questions.

Worthwhile to note: 
They view a ban process still as a 2 step process for us (having voted Yes 2016) - this means a ballot vote and an ordinance/bylaw on the Town Meeting warrant. Note, that we would likely need some form of this anyway if a ballot vote were to pass, we would need to rescind the existing zoning, so this would just be one more follow-on item.

Also, retail sales does not mean on site consumption. There are provisions for that in the original article and unchanged by the law which would require a petition to signed by 10% of registered voters (meaning approximately 500 signatures), and the question would appear on ballot for next biennial state election (November 2018).

Clarifying the limit relative to liquor licenses, it is possible to limit the number of marijuana retailers to fewer than 20 per cent of the number of retail off premises alcoholic beverage licenses issued under G.L. c.138 by the municipality - in our case, that would mean limiting to 1 marijuana retailer.

Relative to actual use of product, whether home grown or purchased in a retail establishment - No person shall consume marijuana in a public place or smoke marijuana where smoking tobacco is prohibited. The term “public place” is not defined in the Act but is generally understood to include areas both privately and publicly owned to which the public have rights of access by invitation, either express or implied. • Open containers of marijuana or marijuana products are prohibited in the passenger area of any motor vehicle.

Also - in response to question on whether the bylaw could be petitioned by voters or not:

The law does not expressly address this question but it is our opinion that the answer is no. The law, as recently amended, states, in G.L. c.94G, §3(e)(3), “A ballot question under this subsection [authorizing marijuana bans] may be placed on the ballot at a regular or special election held by the … town by a vote of the board of selectmen …and subject to a municipal charter, if any.” A general premise of state election law is that questions may only be placed on an election ballot when expressly allowed by law and only in the manner prescribed by law. See, for example, G.L. c.59, 21C, authorizing Prop 2 ½ ballot questions. In contrast to §3(e)(3),  section 3(b) of c.94G expressly calls for a voters’ petition for the purpose of allowing on-site consumption of marijuana products.


With respect to the language deferring to local charters, some municipalities have charters which allow local voters to petition to place questions on the local ballot. Williamstown does not have such a charter.  


Based on these factors, it is our opinion that, in Williamstown, a ballot question to ban marijuana, may only be initiated by the Board of Selectmen.