John P. Matheson

Malden City Councilor, attorney

John P. Matheson

Whether you are for or against recreational marijuana establishments, there are good reasons to support a temporary moratorium in Malden. The state attorney general has said such moratoriums are consistent with a municipality’s authority to impose “reasonable time limitations” on development in order to “engage in a legitimate planning study.” Cities and towns can impose moratoriums to establish rules for marijuana operations, or to hold a local vote on whether to allow those businesses at all.

As of early April, at least six communities had approved a moratorium, and close to 80 had considered some form of restrictions.


Marijuana growing and selling operations raise novel legal, planning, and public safety issues that communities need time to address. For example, unless local zoning is established by the time applications begin on April 1, 2018, marijuana sales may pop up anywhere retail sales are already allowed. Cities and towns may regulate the time, place, and manner of operations, as long as such ordinances are reasonable, but those rules must already be in place.

A moratorium also provides time for voters to help govern the process. Voters may limit marijuana licenses to a percentage of liquor licenses, or ban them completely. Although voters statewide approved legalization last November, it does not necessarily follow they want marijuana operations within their local borders. For example, support for casino gambling in Massachusetts does not necessarily mean that your town is the right place for a casino.

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There also are legal questions communities need time to consider. The Malden City Council has requested an opinion from the US attorney general on the inconsistency of federal law — which classifies marijuana as an illegal substance — and state law that has legalized the drug. Until these laws are reconciled, bank regulations prohibit marijuana purchases using credit cards.

In Colorado, where sales top $1 billion annually, these cash-only businesses are prone to robberies, driving up law enforcement costs. Therefore, Massachusetts communities must consider if the 2 percent local option tax they can impose on marijuana sales would provide enough revenue to offset their additional public safety costs.

In light of the novel legal and safety issues presented by recreational marijuana sales, a moratorium is a logical first step for communities that feel they need more time to get it right.


Jenelle DeVits

Malden resident, attorney

Jenelle DeVits


Malden should not pass a 12-month moratorium on recreational marijuana retail stores. Instead, the City Council and Planning Board should work to pass a responsible zoning ordinance that is subject to public comment.

Last November, 54 percent of Malden residents voted in favor of the statewide ballot question to legalize recreational marijuana. Still, it has taken over six months for the City Council’s Ordinance Committee to send the Planning Board a proposed zoning ordinance for public hearing. The public hearing is now set for June. The call for a 12-month moratorium, especially in light of this new progress, is unnecessary.

First of all, retail stores are not expected to receive licenses from the Commonwealth until mid-2018. That means stores are not imminently waiting to open on every street corner before the City Council can pass an appropriate zoning ordinance. We are an intelligent city that can use the next few months, and the June public hearing, to craft a zoning ordinance that works for our city. We know what the product is and we understand where in our city the sale might be most acceptable. If the City Council cannot pass a zoning ordinance over the course of a year and a half, then it’s time to elect new councilors.

Second, the moratorium is unfortunate in light of Malden’s dire need for resources to address serious issues in our city. For instance, the Globe reported last year that Malden has the highest percentage of lead water pipes in the Boston area. It is vital to the public health that we ambitiously replace as many pipes as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Additionally, Malden schools are overcrowded and close to capacity. It is in the best interest of our city’s future to invest more in our schools and provide the resources and facilities our teachers and students need. It would be extremely unfortunate if city leaders prohibited a much-needed revenue source while facing such budgetary constraints.

The evidence so far in states legalizing marijuana is that it increases tax revenues while having limited impact on crime. Some communities are using the additional revenue to offer students scholarships, repair infrastructure, and expand services for local residents.

Malden should work to pass a zoning ordinance that invites responsible, taxpaying businesses into our community, and city leaders should respect the will of the voters and do their job.

Last week’s Argument: Should Massachusetts open clinics where drug users could inject under medical supervision?

Yes: 52.63% (20 votes)

No: 47.37% (18 votes)

Should Malden impose a temporary moratorium on the sale of recreational marijuana in the city?As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at