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Scituate officals seek 1-year delay on medical marijuana shops

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  January 4, 2013 12:30 PM

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Scituate officials are hoping to delay the entrance of medical marijuana dispensaries into the town for at least a year, until the state and town can coordinate some regulations around where and how they operate.

Though not an outright ban, Planning Board members are looking to put a moratorium in place that would prohibit any dispensaries from entering the town this year.

“The rationale is that the guidelines required to be put up by Department of Public Utilities won’t be available till April or May 1,” said William Limbacher, chairman of the Planning Board. “You’d be not sure what language they are going to put out…it’s a big unknown of how the regulations are going to be put forward.”

The yearlong restriction would grant state officials enough time to develop regulations around the new law.

Additionally, the wait would allow the town enough time to write a bylaw addressing some residents’ concerns, including where the dispensaries should be located, terms of use, and hours.

Though no concrete language has been proposed, the bylaw, alongside the moratorium, will both be voted on at the April Town Meeting.

“The language we’re still working on it and making sure we’re consistent with recommendations from town counsel,” Limbacher said.

The issue is one many towns throughout Massachusetts have been grappling with, as the implementation of marijuana dispensaries has remained cloudy since the law was voted into effect in November.

To help clarify how to proceed, Scituate has already begun to host meetings regarding the medical marijuana issue, including a public meeting held on Dec. 20 to receive public reaction.

According to Town Planner Laura Harbottle, majority of the meeting attendees were town officials, including School Superintendent John McCarthy, Police Chief Brian Stewart, and Selectmen Chairman Joseph Norton.

However, there were a few residents that attended, who also favored some sort of regulations to be imposed around the new facilities.

That meeting help set the groundwork for potential bylaw language, though if a bylaw would ultimately be supported by the town, it’s hard to say, Harbottle said.

In Scituate, the marijuana question was favored 6,768 to 4,263 in the November election.

“I think it’s clear that the voters of Scituate did vote to allow medical marijuana to be used for certain heath conditions where they can be effective, but as far as keeping these facilities away from children and making sure they are operating in a way that doesn’t affect the rest of the community. I think people would support that too,” Harbottle said. “They aren’t in conflict with one another.”

With that goal in mind, the board hopes to finalize the bylaw language at a Planning Board meeting on Jan. 10. That schedule would allow the town to host a public hearing about the bylaw on Feb. 7.

There, the board can receive more public reaction about how the dispensaries should be regulated.

The regulation will most likely require setbacks from day cares, schools, and other places where children are around.

According to Harbottle, planning board members are also look into regulating the licensing of the establishments.

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