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Worcester to Explore Zoning Restrictions for Medical Marijuana

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

 

With the clock ticking on the state Department of Public Health's 120-day time period to develop and release its official registration applications, licensing and distribution systems for voter-approved medical marijuana, the Worcester City Council floated some of its own possible regulations, including a request to City Manager Michael O'Brien for a report on where and how medical marijuana dispensaries should be zoned in the City.

"I think we owe it to our residents to put this on the table of uses," said District 3 Councilor George Russell, referring to Worcester's table of uses for the zoning of properties in the city.

City Solicitor David Moore said that a medical marijuana dispensary is not in the City's table of uses at this point.

Russell requested the report from the City Manager in order to head off any potential trouble later on with the siting of a medical marijuana dispensary in such areas as residential zones. The Councilor said that he personally believed such a facility should be located in a medical zone.

The discussion was sparked by two orders submitted by At-Large Councilor Konstantina Lukes, the first calling for a report from the City Mangaer as to whether medical pot dispensaries could be restricted by local zoning ordinances or state regulatory means to established pharmacies, and the second calling for a vote on a moratorium on allowing such dispensaries in Worcester for one year or until the DPH establishes its regulations, whichever comes first.

The order for a moratorium was taken off the table when it was filed by Lukes herself, but the order regarding zoning restrictions for dispensaries was tabled for future discussion.

"I know anecdotally I've been told those reccommendations are not going to be ready in time," Lukes said, noting that the Massachusetts Municipal Association has also called for a delay in the implementation of the law, which went into effect Jan. 1, in order to allow cities and towns adequate time to update local zoning regulations.

Lukes went on to state that the ballot question Bay State voters approved with 63 percent support last November left many questions unanswered for local lawmakers, who were effectively cut out of the legislative process by the ballot initiative.

"Clearly the law is so vague that it demands input from the medical professionals in this city and the public safety officials, our own police department in the city, on how this should be handled," she said.

District 2 Councilor Philip Palmieri said that in light of the overwhelming support the ballot initiative received, the Council should allow the responsible state agency to address the concerns related to medical marijuana within its allotted time frame before taking action on the municipal level.

"We can have all those questions answered after we have the State move forward and give us the recommendatiosn that are necessary," he said.

In the meantime, District 4 Councilor Sarai Rivera requested a report from the City Manager on crimes committed in Worcester related to marijuana, adding that the orders put forth by Lukes merit further consideration.

"The reality is that here in this city I know for a fact that there has been death, shootings and home invasions due to marijuana."

At-Large Councilor Frederick Rushton also requested that a letter be sent to the state's Office of Health and Human Services to formally request that the agency hold a public hearing in Worcester on the implementation of the new medical marijuana laws.

"If there's going to be public hearings, the second-largest city should have a public hearing," he said.

 

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