Aquinnah voters wrapped up the annual town meeting season on Tuesday night, approving nearly all 30 warrant articles but stopping short at the final item of the night to defeat a measure that would have prohibited public consumption of marijuana.
A total of 50 voters attended the session, which began with a special town meeting. All 11 articles were unanimously approved on that warrant.
Voters next turn their attention to town elections on Wednesday.
— Peter Simon
Police chief Randhi Belain said he placed the public consumption bylaw on the warrant to prepare for the new state medical marijuana law approved by voters last fall.
“We didn't want anybody in public consuming marijuana,” he said. “We're doing it in conjunction with other towns.”
But some voters questioned the necessity for the bylaw.
“Isn't there a no smoking law in any public place?” asked Juli Vanderhoop. “Smoke is smoke.”
Mr. Belain said the bylaw was different because it was directed at marijuana smoke.
James Wallen said the bylaw was a “civil liberties issue.”
“We're passing a law that is stronger than the state's law,” he said. “You already have no smoking on buses and in schools; that's not going to change. This is a civl liberties issue here. It's like the open container issue. We have enough enforcement on civil liberties.”
Sarah Salstonstall took issue with the $300 fine.
“That's a is a pretty steep fine, what's a fine for an open can of beer?” she asked.
Aquinnah does not have an open container law and no such fine applies, Mr. Belain said.
In the end the article was defeated.
Prior to that voters approved a $3.8 million operating budget for next year, up 12 per cent over last year. The increase can largely be traced back to the town's assessment for the Up-Island Regional School district, which is up 35 per cent this year due to increased enrollment. Voters will be asked to approve a $230,000 Proposition 2 ½ override question on the ballot on Wednesday to help pay for the added education costs.
Voters also readily agreed to spend $75,000 on the project to move the Gay Head Light in a series of articles on both the special and annual warrants. Approved spending articles form the town Community Preservation Act fund included $30,000 for a geotechnical engineering study at the cliffs to prepare for the move, $25,000 in emergency restoration work at the lighthouse, a continuing erosion study at the cliffs and digitizing of historic lighthouse documents.
The meeting concluded in just over two hours. Voters turn to the annual town election ballot on Wednesday. Polls are open from noon to 7 p.m. at the Aquinnah town hall.