Dispute between town boards on phantom marajuana dispensaries

by beth on July 23, 2013

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With only 35 medical marijuana dispensaries allowed in Massachusetts, the likelihood of one opening in Southborough seems slim. Yet Metrowest Daily News reports that town boards are already debating how they should be zoned.

Last month, Southborough’s Planning Board voted to allow dispensaries in Southborough, but restrict them to adult business zones “mostly located in a small industrial zone area near the EMC property along Rte. 9 close to Westborough.”

This month, Planning Board member Paul Cimino brought the proposed bylaw before Southborough’s Board of Health. According to MWDN, the Board of Health disagreed with the proposal:

Board of Health members Wednesday said they believe a proposed bylaw regulating medical marijuana dispensaries in town may unfairly stigmatize people who legitimately need the drug.

“You’re treating it like adult porn material, and I just don’t get the correlation,” member Mary Lou Woodford said of the proposal, which would restrict the dispensaries to a zone in town that also allows adult uses.

Cimino countered that without a specific bylaw, a dispensary could apply to open anywhere.

Woodford objected to making it difficult for people in need to find a dispensary. Apparently, part of the bylaw would prohibit dispensaries from posting a sign in front.

In nearby towns, Westborough previously adopted similar laws to those posed by the Planning Board.

In Framingham, the Planning Board has opened the matter up to public hearings. MWDN reported that suggested zoning could include the Southborough border:

Possible locations for medical marijuana businesses dot a map of the town, and include the Tech Park and 9/90 Crossing on the Southborough line as well as the Rte. 9 corridor, the so-called Golden Triangle near the Natick town line and a swath of area encompassing Beaver Street and Loring Drive on the Southside.

(Photo from Flickr by 24oranges.nl)

1 John Kendall July 23, 2013 at 6:25 PM

“If you overregulate it, it won’t come.” I’m with Mrs. Woodford on this one. There are people out there, some I know personally, who legitimately use marijuana to ease the side effects caused by chemotherapy. I would never deny them anything. Like buying aspirin at a pharmacy, they should be able to go to a dispensary to buy it rather than have to hunt it down on street corners or dimly lit alleys.

2 Resident July 24, 2013 at 8:58 AM

And villifying it by regulation turns something lawful into something seedy. This is ridiculous. What are people afraid of? That they might have to explain what a marijuana dispensary is to their children? What’s so hard about that? Get with the program people. As usual in politics these days there are real problems, but some people seem intent on creating new ones to waste their time on.

3 Bonnie Phaneuf July 24, 2013 at 10:07 AM

Mass. gov. Official Website of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services
FAQ (updated 5/24/2013) Medical use of Marijuana
http://www.mass.gov/medicalmarijuana

4 Tim Martel July 24, 2013 at 11:48 AM

I think there are at least two practical concerns:

The first is crime. There aren’t enough studies so far to draw any definitive conclusions. But I think one reasonable question is if the proposed bylaw requires any security measures (security cameras 24-7, security personnel present while open, etc.)?

The second concern is impact on local business. The town is trying to attract more commercial business – will a nearby marijuana dispensary impact that?

Other considerations:
1. Having a nearby dispensary will make it more difficult for individuals to receive a permit to grow their own marijuana at home.
2. A bylaw can always be relaxed at a future point. But if there are no current restrictions, and you want to add them at a later point, you’re stuck with any dispensaries that open in the interim.
3. The dispensaries are non-profit. Don’t expect the town to financially benefit from it.
4. What will be the impact on nearby property values?
5 The town won’t see a penny of the thousands of dollars of license costs/fees. This is a profit engine for the state.

5 Southborough Resident July 24, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Thank you Bonnie for posting the link to the State’s official website. I am already familiar with it (and the law and regulations) as I am a health care professional working with health care organizations and systems in Mass and other states that allow medical marijuana. Having a dispensary outside of a residential or (in Southborough) village business district does not vilify anything – It adds a measure of security for everyone involved. Luckily Massachusetts has strict standards regarding advertising and signage for the dipensaries-some states do not. Picking up your medical marijuana is not quite like going to CVS for your regular prescriptions and there is certainly no consensus in the medical community about the benefit of this product.

6 Southborough Resident July 24, 2013 at 3:14 PM

Great comments Tim!

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