Weed is burning up Waltham — in more than one way. Opponents and proponents of retail marijuana in Waltham attended a public hearing on Jan. 28, according to a Jan. 29 article in the Waltham Patch

The hearing was set to discuss how Waltham would regulate the zoning of marijuana retail shops in the city. It followed a contentious Waltham City Council meeting on the issue in November. More recently, protestors gathered outside a meeting to discuss the ordinance on Jan. 17, according to the same Patch article. As written, the law would prohibit retail marijuana establishments within “500 feet of any pre-existing school, daycare center, park, recreational facility, elderly housing facility, facility for the developmentally disabled, or any facility in which children commonly congregate.” 

Ward 7 Councillor Kristine Mackin has been vocal on the issue. In a post on Reddit after the first city council meeting in the fall, she said she was “fed up with the foot dragging in our council on marijuana, in the two years since we voted in favor of approving Question 4.” 

Mackin said in an email to the Justice that a wide variety of residents have approached her in support of retail weed in Waltham. “I’ve had conversations with supporters of retail shops ranging from 21 to their mid 60s and 70s,” she wrote. However, Mackin also noted that because the current ordinance is zoned for areas primarily accessible by car, “we are at a high risk of massive traffic problems.” A similar situation occurred in Leicester, MA in 2018 when recreational marijuana shops were swamped with thousands of customers, according to Boston.com. Mackin called for the inclusion of retail storefront locations accessible by public transit into the zoning ordinance. 

She is also pushing for an “economic empowerment” clause, which gives priority in licensing review to members of minority communities that were heavily hit by marijuana convictions, according to the state Cannabis Control Commission. “I’m hopeful that we can use this opportunity to provide partial restitution to minorities that were disproportionately impacted by the ‘war on drugs,’” she said. 

According to the ordinance, the City would be allowed to have four retail marijuana stores. Those in favor of the stores have focused on the economic benefit the stores would bring to Waltham, according to a Jan. 29 article in the Waltham News Tribune; those opposed are concerned by issues of public health. At last count, a poll on the Waltham Patch website had the city almost evenly divided: 49 percent in favor of establishing retail pot shops in the City, and 51 percent against. The Rules Committee meeting on the subject will be on Feb. 6.