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December 3, 2012

Cities, towns mull pot law

Local communities in quandary over siting of medical marijuana centers

Peabody is the first local community to try to stop medical pot shops from locating here, but it may not be the last.

Local cities and towns are struggling to prepare for the new medical marijuana law, approved by a state ballot question last month. Some North Shore officials think it may be better to zone the dispensaries than to ban them, while others are taking a wait-and-see approach. No one is sure yet just what the law will allow them to do or whether a ban would even be legal.

Danvers Selectman Dan Bennett sums up the quandary that many local leaders find themselves in.

“I would not be in favor of one (a marijuana shop) in downtown Danvers where middle school students congregate,” Bennett said. But, “the voters wanted it, so I can’t see prohibiting it.”

Danvers has an adult zone on Route 1 for those uses, but whether dispensaries for medical marijuana could be zoned in a similar way “remains to be seen,” Bennett said.

Danvers selectmen are scheduled to discuss the issue at their regular meeting tomorrow night.

Salem also will tackle the issue tomorrow, when the City Council and Planning Board hold a joint public hearing on the issue. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the council chamber at City Hall.

City leaders will discuss a proposal to classify medical marijuana treatment centers as medical clinics, allowing the city to regulate them by special permit through the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The new state law, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, was approved by 63 percent of voters in the November election. It will remove criminal and civil penalties for medical marijuana use by patients with debilitating medical conditions such as cancer or multiple sclerosis. Such patients must get a written certification from their doctor that they would benefit from marijuana use.

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