The Oak Bluffs planning board is weighing its recommendation on a recently filed citizen petition that would allow marijuana stores downtown. 

Geoff Rose, an Oak Bluffs resident and owner of Island Time Dispensary in Vineyard Haven, filed the petition and requested changes to two zoning bylaws that would allow stores on streets such as Circuit avenue and Dukes County avenue, as well as in residential buildings. 

During a virtual planning board meeting Thursday, Mr. Rose’s proposed changes, which would also allow stores to be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, received both positive and negative feedback from attendees. 

Geoff Rose is seeking to change the zoning in Oak Bluffs. — Ray Ewing

Resident Chris Seidel argued that a cannabis dispensary would disrupt the family-friendliness of downtown Oak Bluffs. 

“It sends a message to young people to have these establishments downtown,” said Ms. Seidel. “Even though they can’t purchase from them legally, just having them in the presence of them I think just sends a message of acceptance. I don’t think that’s the right message.”

Mr. Rose stressed that no cannabis products would be visible from the street and that customers would be required to use utmost discretion when shopping at the dispensary.

“A customer would come up to the building, ring the doorbell and be buzzed into a waiting room,” he said. “Customers would enter the dispensary in groups of no more than two… and every customer would present a valid ID that gets scanned for verification. All of this would not be visible from the street.”

Oak Bluffs Association executive director Billie Jean Sullivan spoke in favor of the changes, citing Mr. Rose’s experience and success running Island Time Dispensary. 

“We at the OBA do believe that this is a good business plan,” she said. “He has worked hard on it… and we just think that this is the type of business that should be allowed in our commercial district.”

There are currently no dispensaries in Oak Bluffs and town regulations allow them only in an overlay district farther from downtown. 

The planning board will vote on its recommendation, which would be presented to voters at the spring town meeting, at its next meeting.

“We will notify the public when we plan to deliberate this further and vote as a board,” said planning board chair Ewell Hopkins. “We will keep the record open until the next meeting so that people can continue to ask questions and reach out to us about this issue.”