Cities and Towns Grappling with Medical Marijuana Response

With state guidelines governing medical marijuana dispensaries expected as soon as late April, cities and towns in western Massachusetts are grappling with how to prepare for implementation of the medical marijuana measure passed by voters in November.

The department of health and human services is still working out the rules formedical marijuana dispensaries in the commonwealth, but municipalities are positioning to be ready. Tomorrow in Pittsfield, the city council will discuss a draft ordinance proposed by mayor Dan Bianchi, who says a proactive regulatory stance is needed.

“You want to have it well regulated, you want to have it secured, you want to have it in a location that enhances management and you certainly want to have it regulated so that it’s very specific as to the dispersement of it.”

Bianchi is proposing that applications for medical marijuana shops would be handled by the Zoning Board of Appeals, and they would not be allowed within 500 feet of a residential zone, or one thousand feet of a school or church.

In the small town of Bernardston, the focus is not on how to regulate potential dispensaries, but on keeping them out entirely. 

Selectboard member Robert Raymond says he’s sympathetic to proponents ofmedical marijuana generally, but it’s simply a budgetary issue. 

“I just think the majority of the problem might be increased police presence. We’re running on limited budgets. And I believe in medical marijuana, I know that I have many friends that say that this is a great idea.”

And Raymond says he’s also worried about potentially having to deal with an influx of marijuana customers.

The Bernardston Selectboard approved a recommendation that Town Meeting take up a bylaw forbidding the newly legal entities from the town. Raymond and Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi both say the priority is to have a policy in place before statewide rules go into effect.