Scituate officials are hoping to put some ground rules in place for medical marijuana dispensaries, one of several cities and towns preparing for a new law passed by voters this fall.
The plan in Scituate is to develop a bylaw to be voted on during Annual Town Meeting in the spring, yet before the language can be drafted, town officials want to glean public opinion on what possible restrictions should be enacted.
“There isn’t a baseline,” said Town Planner Laura Harbottle about a potential starting point. “The Planning Board wants to hear from the public before they make any decisions about setbacks from schools and that type of thing.”
As a result, the School Committee, School Superintendent, and the public will get the chance to voice their mind during a public meeting on Dec. 20, to be held at the Scituate Harbor Community Building.
Town officials, law enforcement personnel, medical staff, traffic safety personnel, and members of the economic development community will also be present to discuss the potential impacts of the distribution centers and to consider regulations around them.
“I’m not sure how large it will be, but there will be different groups that have some concerns about this,” Harbottle said. “I do expect to get quite a variety of people coming out.”
The timing for the discussion is important, as town officials would have to propose a potential bylaw to restrict any center's location by Dec. 18 – when the warrant for upcoming Town Meeting closes.
The specific language of the bylaw could then be worked out between now and the beginning of January, Harbottle said.
“I think the board [of selectmen] is concerned that these dispensaries could be coming and we wouldn’t be prepared, so we’re trying to get some head start on the issue,” she said.
Communities throughout Massachusetts are struggling to enact regulations around the new law, which won by majority vote during the November election, and will take effect in January.
In Quincy, city councilors are debating possible restrictions during a meeting on Dec. 10. In Braintree, town councilors are discussing the issues and have some preliminary restrictions on hand.
And in Scituate - where the marijuana question passed by a 6,768 to 4,263 vote – the debate rages on about where the facilities should be located.
Harbottle wasn’t sure how likely it might be that a distribution center would chose Scituate to set up shop, but said its still better to be prepared.
“We don’t have the size population that some other communities have, but you just never know,” Harbttle said. “And you don’t know where the initiative is going to come from – from one of the drug store chains or it could go anywhere that a good site is available, because they know people would drive to it. So it could go anywhere.”
For more information on the upcoming meeting, click here.