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City Council President Marc Laredo released this memo today regarding the fate of the proposed ballot question that would ban on recreational  marijuana store in Newton (including a twist in terms of when the referendum might be held).

To: City Council
From: President Laredo
Re: Process regarding possible ballot questions relating to a ban or limit on the number of retail marijuana outlets in Newton

Date: August 28, 2018

Under the new marijuana law, Newton must issue at least eight licenses for retail marijuana establishments (one-quarter of the number of liquor licenses) unless the voters give the City Council the authority to ban or otherwise limit the number of retail marijuana outlets in Newton to fewer than eight. In July, we passed a measure to place on the November ballot the question of whether Newton should limit the number of such establishments to 2-4 (with the exact number to be left to the Council’s discretion), but denied a citizen request for a ballot question relating to a total ban.

In the meantime, citizens in favor of a total ban (“Opt-Out”) have gathered what appears to be sufficient signatures to put the item on the ballot (the City Clerk is still in the process of certifying the signatures). We have been advised by the Law Department that if successful in meeting the threshold, the Charter requires the item be placed on the November, 2019 ballot (not the 2018 ballot). The Council can put an Opt-Out question on the November, 2018 ballot, however, pursuant to its authority under G.L. c. 94G, §3.

There is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the implementation of the new marijuana law and the City’s rights and responsibilities under it. We also are operating under significant time constraints since the November election is two months away. Therefore, we will have two special meetings devoted to these issues.

The first will be a meeting of the Programs and Services Committee on Thursday, September 6 to sort out the procedural issues as much as possible and then to determine what course(s) of action to recommend to the full Council. The second will be a meeting of the full Council on Thursday, September 13 for consideration of, and hopefully a vote on, the Committee’s recommendations.

Since there may be two potentially competing and inconsistent questions on the ballot (no retail establishments at all and a limit of 2-4 establishments), I have docketed an item asking that the Council give voters advance guidance on which will prevail if both questions are on the 2018 ballot and then are both adopted by the voters. There are also several other marijuana-related ballot items that have been docketed. At our meeting on September 5, I will ask that all of the marijuana-related ballot items be accepted on the docket and referred to the Programs and Services Committee so it can consider all of the items simultaneously and then make its recommendations to the full Council for decision.

I will explain this process in more detail at our full Council meeting on September 5. Acting City Solicitor Young will be available to answer questions at that time, as well as on September 6 and 13. Thank you in advance for accommodating these scheduling changes.