MELROSE — Medical marijuana dispensaries would pose a threat to public health and safety, city officials said during a hearing Monday on a proposal to ban the facilities from opening in Melrose.
“These stores will create access to a drug that, despite the recent vote, continues to be illegal under the law,” said Dr. Frank Brinchiero, a member of the Board of Health.
“This is going to be an attraction for a criminal element,” said Police Chief Michael Lyle.
The two spoke during a joint public hearing of the Board of Aldermen and Planning Board at City Hall to consider a proposed zoning amendment that would prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries.
The Nov. 6 ballot question legalizing medical marijuana also allows for people who are eligible to receive the drug but cannot travel to a dispensary to grow their own. “Will he or she be able to grow marijuana in the home?” asked Ward 7 Alderman William Forbes.
“Only if they are unable to get to a dispensary,” said Ruth Clay, the city’s public health director.
“I think to go ahead and say, ‘We’re blocking it here’ . . . You’re giving licenses to amateurs to grow marijuana,” said resident Gary Condit.
The dispensary issue drew little interest from other local residents, as only Condit and two Melrose High School students addressed city officials during the 45-minute hearing.
Olivia Izzi, a Melrose High sophomore, and freshman Asha Williams are members of the Melrose Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.
“I believe dispensing medical marijuana in the city of Melrose will increase access to youth,” Izzi said.
Williams said the dispensaries could make smoking marijuana seem less risky to teens. “It’s already a big problem. We can see that in the schools,” she said. Dispensaries, she added, “will only make that increase.”
The Planning Board has 21 days to review the zoning amendment and send a recommendation to aldermen; they then would have 90 days to vote on the proposal.