WELLFLEET — The select board unanimously approved a fifth host community agreement for a retail cannabis business at its May 28 meeting, two weeks after putting off Zachary Ment of Truro, the applicant, who plans to open up shop at 10 Main St., the former Cape Cod Bank and Trust building.
Ment and his business partner, Trudy Vermehren of Wellfleet, operating as The Old Bank LLC, have applied for a special permit to change the use of the building from office use to retail marijuana sales under the town’s bylaw covering developments of significant impact. The zoning board of appeals is scheduled to consider their application on Thursday, June 13.
The select board granted the agreement with little discussion beyond getting assurances from Ment that his operation would not allow onsite social consumption of marijuana and that it would be open year-round.
Host community agreements with the local regulatory authority are a necessary prelude to being licensed by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission. Four other groups have secured agreements from the Wellfleet board but none has as yet progressed to the point of actually being able to open for business.
The selectmen continued on May 28 to discuss the shaping of a town policy on marijuana businesses, with much of the talk focused on the ideal number of such operations. Current state law allows the town to limit the number to no fewer than three, and Selectman Justina Carlson argued that three or four should be the limit, even though she favored granting the Old Bank agreement, bringing the potential number to five.
“Why can’t we have the policy be consistent with the spirit of the number even if we have approved more than the number?” Carlson asked.
Town Administrator Dan Hoort agreed that was possible. “There’s a two-year limit on opening,” he noted. “As soon as somebody runs past that two-year expiration date and their agreement is void, you could follow your policy.”
“I want to limit the number because a lot of people in town are justifiably nervous,” said Carlson. “We don’t want it to be like art galleries. Right now there’s no protection in town for the people who aren’t comfortable with it. We have a responsibility to protect our community and go slower than we’re going.”
Selectman Kathleen Bacon also called for a “go slow” policy. “I hear a lot from residents concerned about the impact of retail marijuana. I don’t want to be a small town with five outlets for marijuana.”
But two members of the board, Michael DeVasto and Helen Miranda Wilson, were reluctant to place a limit on the number of outlets.
“We should be wary of granting people guaranteed success by limiting it to too small a number,” DeVasto said. “Too many is a problem, but I don’t see it going that way. Too few can also be a problem. Eighty percent of the town voted for legalization of marijuana. That’s kind of a mandate.”
And Wilson argued against having a policy with a specific number limit and instead leaving such decisions to the select board’s discretion.
“I would like to have no number in it,” said Wilson. “We want a future board to be able to say,
‘We’ve got 10 of these and that’s enough.’ But saying what we will do in the future if somebody else applies is dangerous.”
All agreed that year-round operations with some form of “local preference” regarding ownership and staffing were in the town’s best interest.
The board agreed to ask Hoort to come up with a draft policy for its next meeting.
“Mr. Hoort knows what we want,” said chair Janet Reinhart. “There’s a lot we could do. We don’t want to scare the town, which is already scared.”