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Melrose to consider marijuana dispensary ban Monday

Posted by Kathy McCabe  November 19, 2012 09:20 AM

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A proposal to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in Melrose will get a first public hearing on Monday, when the Board of Aldermen and Planning Board hold a joint public hearing at 8 p.m. at City Hall.

A statewide ballot question approved in the Nov. 6 election legalized marijuana for medical purposes. The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, allows for up to 35 dispensaries to sell marijuana, with at least one located in each of the state's 14 counties.

The dispensaries, which would be overseen by the state Department of Public Health, also would be allowed to grow and store marijuana, according to the law.

The new law has sent Bay State cities and towns rushing to propose new zoning codes and bylaws to regulate where the centers my locate, or not. Voters in Reading and Wakefield, which shares a public health director with Melrose, last week approved medical marijuana dispensary bans in each community

Melrose Mayor Rober J. Dolan thinks his city should be next.

"Melrose has very few business districts," Dolan said. "And all of them are located within 100 yards or so of a school, a church, a day care center, a playground. I feel strongly that they [dispensaries] are not an appropriate use in that area."

Melrose voters approved the medical marijuana ballot question by a 2 to 1 margin -- 63 percent in favor, to 37 percent against -- the same margin as it passed statewide, according to election results.

Still, Dolan believes the ban is in the city's best interest.

"This is not an indictment of the vote," he said. "There are obviously, very clearly, people who feel this is needed. The question is, where does it go, and how is it going to be managed."

Melrose worked with Reading and Wakefield to propose bans on the dispensaries. "We planned for this," Dolan said. "We feel strongly it doesn't belong in any of the communities."

Ruth Clay, public health director for the three communities, said the sale of medical marijuana could undercut anti-drug efforts.

"All three communities have active substance abuse prevention coalitions," she said. "In Melrose, we have 11 years, and over $1 million in grant money, to work with our youth. We don't feel that having one of these [dispensaries] in our community really fits in with our vision."

Monday's hearing is just the first step to consider the ban. After the joint public hearing, the Planning Board will have 21 days to make a recommendation to the aldermen. Their proposal would be sent back to the aldermen, which would have to take two votes before a ban could be enacted, Dolan said.

"If the people of Melrose believe this is not the right zoning, they should come to one of these hearings and give their opinions," he said.

Kathy McCabe can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.

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