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Quincy councilors to seek 9-month medical-marijuana moratorium

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  February 26, 2013 01:54 PM

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Quincy city councilors have put off enacting restrictions on medical marijuana-distribution centers, but may impose a nine-month moratorium to ensure regulations are in place before the industry takes root.

In a City Council meeting Monday night, councilors discussed the pros and cons of putting some kind of regulation in place immediately, but eventually decided it would be better to wait.

Possible restrictions included keeping distribution centers away from schools and day care facilities, as well as imposing a 1500-foot setback from residential properties.

“This is coming,” said Councilor Brian Palmucci, who wrote the proposed ordinance. “We need to do something to protect the neighborhoods and address the public safety concerns that were brought up during a public hearing we held in December on this issue.”

Palmucci said he was afraid the city would be “falling behind the curve” if it didn’t create some kind of regulations this month, even though that the Department of Public Health has until May to enact its own regulations.

The city, along with every municipality in the commonwealth, has been struggling since January on how to regulate marijuana distribution centers, which were approved by a ballot vote in November.

In Quincy, 60 percent of voters favored the measure.

Despite the city’s endorsement, Palmucci cited inherent problems with the law’s language, including the fact that as of Jan. 1, anyone with a doctor’s note for medical marijuana could basically start growing it in his or her own home.

Councilor Brian McNamee scoffed at the idea that the law had created a surge in personal pot growing, saying that people interested in doing so had long been on that bandwagon. He also said it would be unwise to act rashly.

“[The moratorium] gives us more time to see what other municipalities are doing and gives us an opportunity to craft something that the [state] policy is weak on or opens up for legislative action at the local level,” McNamee said.

Other councilors were also wary of enacting an ordinance that could be in violation of the state law as it is written today, or in violation of federal law.

According to Councilor Joseph Finn, if the city decides to ban medical marijuana from the town, they could technically be putting people with a qualifying condition in a “hardship,” therefore making them eligible to grow it themselves.

Banning medical marijuana growing from residences would also be in conflict with that section of the law allowing for home growth, Finn said. Not to mention that allowing the distribution of marijuana is in conflict with federal law, which still has the drug listed as a controlled substance.

“On a very personal level, those aren’t the most compelling things that make this bad law. What we’re missing in this country is an honest discussion on the reality of addiction, as it exists in our culture and society today,” Finn said.

Councilor Douglas Gutro suggested that instead of enacting an ordinance fraught with inconsistencies and confusion, that the city should place a nine-month moratorium to work through the problems as well as wait for state direction.

“A moratorium is a short-term opportunity to catch our breath, get some guidance, and make the right decision for the city,” he said.

Because a moratorium is very different from the ordinance discussion listed on the agenda, the item will need to be advertised before the committee can take a vote.

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