Medical Marijuana Zoning Draws Support
No criticism was expressed during Tuesday night's planning board public hearing.
The Westborough planning board's proposed medical marijuana zoning bylaw drew only praise during a public hearing Tuesday night.
No concerns were raised with the plan, which voters will decide at the March 16 annual town meeting, at the Forbes Municipal Building.
The board's eight-page proposal would ban marijuana dispensaries and personal cultivation. Additional language would allow these uses in a new overlay district in Westborough's adult entertainment district, by special permit, if the court rules the ban illegal.
"From a precautionary perspective, it's a responsible place for Westborough to start," Chairman Lester Hensley said.
The proposal is the Westborough officials' response to Massachusetts' new medical marijuana law, which took effect Jan. 1. Voters approved the new law at the Nov. 6 statewide election. Westborough residents supported the measure, Question 3 on the ballot, 5,367 to 3,347.
The law allows the state Department of Public Health to authorize “no more than 35 treatment centers” in 2013, according to the ballot question. However, the state agency is "not likely to meet" the 120-day deadline in the law to define the law, Hensley said.
Wakefield and Reading already have passed bans, he said.
After opening Tuesday's hearing, Hensley reviewed a five-page document presenting the reasoning behind the board's proposal.
Among those reasons are: that marijuana dispensaries and cultivation violate federal law; that the law is unclear on such terms as "60-day supply"; and that "similarly worded laws passed in other states have led to widespread abuse," the document states.
Hensley said the board showed the attorney general’s office a draft of the proposed Westborough bylaw. The state agency felt the ban with the fallback provision “was somewhat unique” it “would not be a reason for them not to approve the bylaw,” he said.
Several town officials praised the board for the bylaw.
School Superintendent Marianne O’Connor expressed concern that the state law does not require parental consent for medical marijuana use.
“That’s a real concern as far as protecting our youth in town,” she said.
“We are definitely seeing an increase in the use of marijuana since the decriminalization.”
Selectman Denny Drewry said he voted for the law in November, but “I didn’t make a decision until I got in the booth and I thought of my parents.”
“I guess I was hoping that maybe we would do it the right way,” he said.
“I support the (planning board’s) article. I hope that some day, the whole country can come together and allow this to happen, but in very special cases.”
School Committee Vice Chairman Stephen Doret said the school board has not taken a position on the planning board’s proposal.
However, the school board supports “the idea of being able to regulate” where medical marijuana dispensaries and personal cultivation are allowed, he said.
The proposal will allow Westborough to put these uses somewhere where they “won’t be close to schools,” Doret said.
The planning board Tuesday night also discussed two changes to its proposal.
The revisions will be ready for town meeting, Hensley said.