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Voters in Milford have banned pot shops and other marijuana businesses from operating in town despite supporting the legalization of recreational pot in Massachusetts last year.
The Tuesday referendum was being watched closely as it was the first to be held in the state since the Legislature adopted a new set of rules for cities and towns to follow if they are seeking to ban retail marijuana stores. However, more than 100 Massachusetts communities have approved outright bans, moratoriums or zoning restrictions on retail marijuana since passage of the November ballot question.
In November, 52 percent of those who voted in Milford cast ballots in favor of the statewide ballot question that legalized adult use of recreational marijuana. But on Tuesday, a larger share - 56 percent - supported the ban, according to unofficial results.
The vote, which must be formally approved by Town Meeting, means it still would be legal for adults to use marijuana, but they would have to go elsewhere to buy the drug legally.
"We are disappointed by the outcome of the referendum and continue to be concerned about whether it accurately reflects the will of the residents of Milford, who so strongly supported legalization of recreational marijuana in last fall's high-turnout election," said Milford Citizens for Fairness, a group that formed to oppose the referendum, in a statement.
The group complained that Milford selectmen, with little public notice, changed the wording of the referendum during the summer to prohibit not only pot shops but any licensed company associated with recreational marijuana.
Milford, a central Massachusetts town of about 28,000 residents, is home to two cannabis businesses. ProVerde Laboratories operates a testing facility for medical marijuana, and Sage Naturals has a cultivation site that supplies medical marijuana dispensaries in Somerville and Cambridge.
While medical marijuana businesses aren't included in the ban, the companies warned before the vote they would likely have to shut down or leave Milford because they would be unable to compete in the more lucrative recreational market.
Milford CARES, an organization that pushed for the ban, lauded the outcome of the referendum.
"Together we recognized the importance of our mission to protect our kids' health, maintain public safety, and safeguard the integrity of the community," the group said on its Facebook page.
Steve Hoffman, the newly appointed chairman of the state's Cannabis Control Commission, told The Associated Press in a recent interview that local communities have "legitimate concerns" about the opening of pot shops. He said commissioners would meet with officials in as many city and towns as possible to try and alleviate those worries.
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