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Retail Marijuana Referendum Wording to Change

Now that Governor Charles Baker has signed the new legislation governing retail marijuana sales, the wording of Milford's September 19 referendum question – with ballots already printed and being voted upon by absentees – has to change to match the terms of the new law. State election officials have advised the town that it will have to send a new absentee ballot with the new ballot question wording to anyone who already submitted an absentee vote on the current wording.

News of a possible change surfaced at the Board of Selectmen's July 24 meeting, with acting chair Selectman William Buckley bringing up a memo from Town Counsel Gerald Moody stating, "...if the new legislation is signed by the Governor, which everyone expects it to be, we will have to conform to the requirements of that legislation."

Moody attached his recommended new wording for the referendum:

• Instead of the current, "Shall the Town prohibit the operation of Marijuana Retailers, as defined in G.L. c. 94G §1, within the Town of Milford, a summary of which appears below?"

• the new wording would be "Shall the Town of Milford adopt the amendments to the Zoning BY-laws as set forth below which Amendments prohibit the operation of Marijuana Retailers as defined in G.L. c. 94G, §1, within the Town of Milford, the text of which, and a summary of which, appears below?"

Even before the change was discussed, residents wanted to comment on the ballot and on issue of whether to allow retail marijuana sales in Milford. Bryan Cole, who is opposed to the ban, asked what the town is doing to maximize turnout on September 19 so that it comes close to the 13,409 who voted in last November's successful state referendum on whether to allow retail marijuana sales in Massachusetts.

In response, Buckley said he would ask Moody whether town funds could be used to promote the election, but not a particular side of the question. In addition, he said he would ask Town Clerk Amy Neves on ways to publicize the special election. "We're not used to having voting in September," Buckley said. "We always want to see numbers [of voters] increase," he continued. "Why don't we see what we can do within the law, just for the purpose of increasing voter participation?"

Resident William Sanborn is for the ban. "I feel strongly that it's too soon to allow recreational sale of marijuana in this community," he said. Rather than being a "pioneer," Milford should wait "until such time as we know more about how this is affecting other communities," Sanborn said. "If we can increase voter participation, I support that wholeheartedly," he said.

Town Administrator Richard Villani said the ballot wording change would not affect the September 19 date of the special election.


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