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December 5, 2012

Danvers takes steps to zone marijuana dispensaries

(Continued)

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, removes state criminal and civil penalties for medical marijuana use for patients with certain debilitating conditions who get a written certification from a doctor. The law provides for 35 nonprofit medical marijuana treatment centers throughout the state, with no more than five in each county. The state is not required to license these treatment centers until Jan. 1, 2014, after regulations for them are drafted. Lucy also pointed out that because the centers are nonprofit, there will be no tax benefit from them.

Selectman Gardner Trask said he would like any zoning change to limit the number of centers in the town.

“Well, one is a good number,” Bennett chimed in.

Bennett told the board that some towns like Reading and Wakefield have already passed zoning bylaws that ban medical marijuana dispensaries. The Peabody City Council has also taken steps to ban them.

Bennett said the town has three options: Do nothing, prohibit dispensaries outright or find a place for them. Banning them might open up the town to legal challenges, he said.

He told selectmen that the town has received information that an organization has been eyeing Peabody and Danvers for a dispensary since April. Bennett suggested that areas presently zoned for medical uses be a good place to start, and that the downtown and the mall be off-limits. He and others said a dispensary should be required to grow its supply on-site, to avoid legal issues related to transportation.

Lucy said he spoke with the Reading town clerk, who said the town started its zoning process in the summer. Lucy also suggested that while voters in nearly every town voted in favor of medical marijuana use, many are taking a not-in-my-backyard approach. While Wakefield voters approved Question 3, the Town Meeting vote was 143-9 to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, Lucy said.

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