TOWNSEND — Town Meeting voters approved of their town joining a list of less than a dozen communities that have taken a stand against use of marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinol, in public areas, in response to last year’s state referendum that decriminalizes possession of less than an ounce of the substance.
Police Chief Erving Marshall had submitted the article, whose language is taken from police regulations. It establishes local police as the enforcing authority and a $300 fine for each offense.
A similar request from Ayer Police Chief William Murray was approved by that town’s selectmen to bring before voters.
Marshall explained that state law now makes possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a civil offense carrying a $100 fine for persons age 18 or older and provides legal recourse if the person is under age.
One section of the law however allows towns to enforce “use” not possession, Marshall said.
“This proposed bylaw is not meant to subvert the ballot question which passed with a 65 percent plurality,” he said, adding that the interpretation of the law is a recommendation of the attorney general’s office.
One speaker advised that the law is no different from banning public drinking, or driving in possession of an open container of alcohol.
The article passed on voice vote of the less than 100 residents in attendance, with three or four votes in the negative.
Use of marijuana is now prohibited on any public way, any place in which the public has the right of access, in any common park, playground, school ground, public building or public land under the control of the town.
The bylaw can be enforced through any lawful means “in law or in equity,” including and not limited to noncriminal disposition. Penalities for violation are in addition to any civil penalty (the $100) imposed under the possession statute.