© The Stoneham Independent

STONEHAM, MA - In the first secret ballot cast in well over a decade, Town Meeting voters earlier this week enacted an outright prohibition on pot shops within Stoneham's borders.

In an outcome that mirrored Stoneham's response to the Nov. of 2016 referendum question that legalized recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, local citizens at Monday night's Special Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved Article 1, which sought to enact a general bylaw that bans retail marijuana dispensaries in town.

According to Town Moderator Jeanne Craigie, who smoothly and quite effectively managed Stoneham's first secret ballot count at Town Meeting in recent memory, the measure passed by a margin of 289-to-112.

Ironically, the last time town officials even came close to conducting a secret ballot at Town Meeting, it was Craigie who proposed the approach. Specifically, the Duncklee Avenue resident, then serving on Stoneham's School Committee, obtained enough support back in 2010 to conduct a secret ballot vote on a local option meals tax.

At the time, Craigie pushed for the more private voting method in order to protect dissenters, but after herself becomming the target of various insults and personal attacks on the Town Meeting floor, she withdrew her request.

Likely with that bad memory in mind, the town moderator was quick on Monday night to quell the frustrated rumblings of the audience after 25 supporters stood to back the secret ballot request, which was proposed by Congress Street resident Dave Kurdzionak.

"We can do this expeditiously. We are prepared to do this," remarked Craigie, who thanks to the help of Town Clerk Maria Sagarino and staff, was able to conduct and tally the votes within a half-hour.

During the 2016 state election, Stoneham's electorate voted 6,859 to 6,078 against the legalization of recreational marijuana.

In light of those results, Selectman Caroline Colarusso, a vocal opponent of pot shops who late last fall convinced her peers to convene last night's special assembly, had insisted it was unfair to decide the retail sales issue through proposed zoning legislation.

At issue was the fact that zoning initiatives must garner a two-thirds supermajority in order to pass at Town Meeting. By contrast, a general bylaw required just a majority to pass.

However, as it turns out, the townspeople's anti-retail-sales sentiment was far more widespread that the 2016 election results appeared to indicate, as the 289-to-112 vote tally on Monday night would have been more than sufficient to pass a zoning change.

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