I am a Wayland resident and a father. I believe it makes sense to buy more time, in the form of a 6-month moratorium, on recreational marijuana retail establishments in our town. There is currently a statewide moratorium on sales of recreational marijuana until July 1, 2018. I believe that Wayland should impose a moratorium that would push that date back to December 31, 2018.

Since recreational marijuana was made legal in Massachusetts for those 21 or above last November, more than 100 Massachusetts municipalities have imposed bans, moratoriums or zoning restrictions on commercial marijuana businesses. Earlier this month, Natick became the latest town to pass a moratorium, joining our neighbors Lincoln, Sudbury, Wellesley and Needham in doing so. Weston banned the sale of recreational marijuana outright. Hudson officials voted against such a ban.

The vote on Wayland’s moratorium vote will be held this coming Tuesday night, November 14, at a Special Town Meeting at the Wayland High School Fieldhouse. A two-thirds majority is required to pass the moratorium. (At the spring town meeting, residents supported the moratorium 185-109, just nine votes short of the 2/3 threshold.) If the moratorium does not pass, applications for recreational pot retailers will start being accepted on April 1 and potentially five pot shops will be able to open on December 31, 2018.

What does a pot shop look like? A marijuana retailer is licensed to sell smokable marijuana plant products, concentrates such as hash and oil, and – what is most frightening to many people – edibles. Edibles include candy, brownies, cookies and soda with highly potent THC levels (often higher than those of plant products). Many of the candy products are designed to look like real candy, and it is difficult to tell the difference between the two. This poses the danger that anyone could unknowingly ingest THC. . .especially kids. (This past January, two Framingham middle schoolers were sent to the ER after they found candies on their school bus and ate them, unaware that the candies contained THC.) And pot stores WILL carry edibles -- according to one study, 60% of Colorado pot retailers’ profits are from edibles.

Where would Wayland pot shops be located? That depends on zoning bylaws. Wayland is divided into residential and commercial zones, and while one would think that a store would have to be located in a commercial zone, that may not be the case. (I say may because this is all uncharted territory.)

Why does Wayland need the moratorium? At a public hearing held on October 3, Wayland selectmen voted unanimously in favor of the moratorium. According to town planner Sarkis Sarkisian, the moratorium will provide Wayland with more time to develop a cohesive plan of implementation, which would include:
• Conducting a planning and zoning study
• Undertaking a planning process to amend local zoning bylaws
• Determining the best land usage for potential pot shops
• Determining how this new industry will be regulated by bodies such as the Board of Health
• Evaluating state rules, which are still evolving
• Seeing how recreational marijuana businesses are affecting other communities
• Most importantly, determining what is best for the town of Wayland.

“Simply put, we need more time,” Sarkisian told me recently. “Right now, there are a lot more questions than answers. Every month something new comes along regarding the tax implications of retail marijuana. And zoning in Wayland is difficult to begin with. This is why the planning board says we need more time.”

If Wayland becomes the only area community to allow recreational marijuana sales, the town may or may not see more crime, but this much is certain: Traffic will undoubtedly increase, as will demands on police and fire services. The youth in our town (and other nearby towns) will have increased access to marijuana, but, what may be worse, will receive the message that usage of marijuana has been "normalized." This will undoubtedly mean increased use.

Because once the pot shops open for business it will be hard to go back and undo any mistakes, “it makes sense to wait,” says Sarah Greenaway, chairwoman of the Wayland Youth Advisory Council. “This is not prohibition. It is simply hitting the pause button.” Asked about missing out on tax revenues, she says, “I think we can handle missing six months of tax revenue if it means we learned something to help us plan better.”

I know there are Waylanders who think the pro-moratorium faction is just stalling for time. While recently walking my dog with a friend at the Greenway conservation area, the subject of the moratorium came up. He said the moratorium was merely a case of delaying the inevitable. “Well, what’s wrong with that?” I asked. “It’s inevitable that I’m going to die someday, and I’d certainly like to delay that for a while.”

Okay, enough of my stupid sense of humor. If you believe, like many of us, that delaying the opening of recreational pot stores for a mere six months is important to the town of Wayland, please come to the Special Town Meeting on Tuesday evening. Every vote counts. And by voting, no matter the outcome, you will, according to Greenaway, “have sent a good message to the youth in our town that you’re concerned.”