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Quincy looks to develop marijuana dispensary requirements

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  September 18, 2013 04:37 PM

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Marijuana dispensaries have their eye on Quincy, and city officials are trying to determine the most effective way to bring them in.

City Councilor Brian Palmucci, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said he’s already been contacted by several companies looking to open up medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, specifically West Quincy.

Though the city already has zoning regulations in place for where the shops and cultivation sites can go, Palmucci said the time is ripe to discuss what further requirements the community might have for companies seeking marijuana licenses.

“We were the first to propose zoning regulations on this, and we should be the first to enter into a host agreement with one of these facilities,” Palmucci said. “…We can’t stop them from coming, we might as well do the best we can to offset any negative implications.”

Palmucci, along with Councilors Doug Gutro and Brad Croall, has asked Mayor Thomas Koch to consider developing “host agreement” criteria, a type of contract that would create further requirements with partnering marijuana companies.

For those companies passing the initial screening by the Department of Public Health, the host agreement would be helpful in the second phase of review, where site appropriateness, local support, and public safety are factors in final state approval.

On the local level, a host agreement would offer communities more control over how facilities are brought into the community.

“We need to have a discussion as a community as to what type of facility we’re comfortable with and what type of impact we think these will have on the community, and if there is any mitigation to having them in our area,” Palmucci said.

Already Palmucci has ideas, including that any dispensary dedicate resources to bolster law enforcement, whether it be additional video surveillance around the site, funding for additional patrol officers or drug unit officers, or even funding for drug education for city youth.

Quincy officials plan to discuss the idea with anti-drug groups across the city, including Impact Quincy, which is conducting a drug use survey. A meeting date is pending.

Quincy already imposes several restrictions on marijuana facilities. A dispensary cannot be within 1,500 feet of a residential district, school, other marijuana dispensary, or other city licensed facility (such as a bar).

Cultivation of medical marijuana must also happen on the same premises as the dispensary, and people who are determined to have a “hardship” and can grow medical marijuana on their own must register with the city.

Though the ordinance specifies that dispensaries need to act in accordance with state and federal law, the latter of which still outlaws them, the existing regulations have not barred dispensaries from contemplating Quincy as their home base.

According to Palmucci, nearly 100 applications have been filed with the state for companies seeking marijuana licenses. At least a dozen selected Norfolk County as where they would like to go.

The voter-approved law allows DPH to register up to 35 non-profit Registered Marijuana Dispensaries across the state, with at least one but no more than five dispensaries per county, the DPH website states.

Quincy may very well be the first in Norfolk County to have a dispensary, with companies already approaching city officials with plans and locations.

Palmucci is even scheduling neighborhood meetings to introduce the concept into the community.

For that reason alone, city officials should start developing criteria for what a marijuana facility might do for the community.

“Let’s not wait until it’s here, let’s start the conversation now,” Palmucci said. “Let's have the conversation so we as a community have a better idea of what we’d be looking for in a host agreement, what negative impacts can we expect from a dispensary?”

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