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Residents Want Town to Stop ‘Head Shops’

Weathersfield — Residents are taking proactive steps to keep their community safe by proposing a local ordinance.

A group of six women met Thursday at Martin Memorial Hall to develop a town ordinance that will prohibit future “head shops” where tobacco and drug paraphernalia are sold and marijuana dispensaries where nonprofits are permitted to grow marijuana for medical purposes.

The women are stepping forward because they say they want to shape their own community and encourage economic development consistent with the town’s character.

“It’s our overall vision for a healthy, sustainable and vibrant community,” Melanie Sheehan of the Mount Ascutney Prevention Program said. “We want to promote positive economic development and Weathersfield’s historical beauty, not the proliferation of a drug culture.”

According to Sheehan, the two Weathersfield locations that sell tobacco and drug paraphernalia are a gas station on Route 131 and The Magic Mushroom on Route 5. While the group recognizes their right to conduct their business, they also want to prevent similar businesses from coming in.

According to local resident Cookie Shand, this isn’t the first time Weathersfield has dealt with controversial businesses.

“We fought (an adult drive-in) because we didn’t like the distinct name of ‘Smuttyville.’ We have a chance to change all that,” Shand said.

According to town and state officials, towns can exercise their right to prohibit head shops from operating. The sale of drug paraphernalia is restricted in Vermont according to state statute and a village ordinance tightens the law.

The state Legislature also passed a law last session that would allow four medicinal marijuana dispensaries to open across the state. The Department of Public Safety has approved two locations in Burlington and Waterbury. Dispensary operators must be a nonprofit organization, specify a proposed location, include security plans, and provide information on where they will grow marijuana. Ludlow Village passed an ordinance of their own — similar to the Weathersfield proposal — last December which has not been legally challenged since, Sheehan said.

The ad hoc group will discuss a similar ordinance tonight at the Selectboard meeting and at a future planning commission meeting.

“I think the Magic Mushroom gave us a spark to get fired up, and people are talking about not the store but to get involved in shaping the community. They’re saying, ‘This is about what we want Weathersfield to look like,’ ” Sheehan said.

Shand agreed.

“It’s just that we’re looking down the road five to 10 years from now and we want to determine what kind of community do we want,” Shand said.