By Joan F. Simoneau, Community Reporter
Marlborough – At the request of Council President Patricia Pope and Ward 5 Councilor Robert Seymour, the City Council approved a temporary moratorium on establishing medical marijuana treatment centers in the city at its March 25 meeting. Seymour suggested allowing a year for further development and clarification of the legal issues concerning local regulation of medical marijuana use before pursuing local regulations and policy on the subject.
Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot question in November 2012 to legalize medical marijuana. Since that time, many municipalities have struggled to come to grips with how and where the medical marijuana may be cultivated and dispensed in their communities.
According the commonwealth's official website, www.mass.gov, the Department of Public Health (DPH) has until May 1 to issue regulations. The DPH will not issue any registration cards nor allow any medical marijuana dispensaries to open until the regulations are in effect.
Several Massachusetts communities have also taken the action of banning dispensaries from their communities, although those measures may end up being challenged as unlawful.
Seymour said that several municipalities have chosen the action of instituting a moratorium.
“I don's see why there is any rush. This is a whole new ballgame and we should be prepared,” Seymour stated.
Although he agreed with the action, Councilor-at-Large Mark Oram suggested ending the moratorium Dec. 31, rather than June 30, 2014, as was stated in the proposed amendment to the city's zoning ordinance submitted to the council by City Solicitor Donald V. Rider Jr.
“We must remember that 63 percent of the voters [in the commonwealth] voted in favor,” Oram said.
The moratorium puts a hold on the use of land or structures for a medical marijuana treatment center, as well as prohibiting the development of related products such as food, tinctures, aerosols, oil, ointments or educational materials for medical purposes ?considered accessory to any use permitted in the city. During this period, the city will undertake a planning process to address potential impacts.
Rider noted the Mass. Attorney General's Office has approved a moratorium adopted by the town of Burlington relative to medical marijuana treatment centers.? He said his proposed moratorium “closely parallels Burlington's version.”
The council voted to advertise the proposed moratorium and refer the matter to the Planning Board.