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Local officials scramble to write bylaws on pot dispensaries

A researcher said a common town  strategy on zoning is “wait and see who blinks first.”
A researcher said a common town strategy on zoning is “wait and see who blinks first.”Credit: Associated Press

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With the one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries set to expire by June in many south suburbs — and the state about to announce where some of the shops might open — some communities are scrambling to draft local bylaws in time for town meetings this spring.

Local governments can control the medical marijuana industry through zoning, but the process has raised questions about strategy. Should towns put a dispensary in plain sight or tuck it out of the way? Stick it near adult shops, in industrial zones, or near other medical services?

Jody Lehrer, who researched the new law as a student at Bridgewater State University’s master of public administration program, found that of the 151 communities she surveyed, 77 percent passed a one-year moratorium on dispensaries, and 11 percent wrote new bylaws. She said many communities’ attitude toward zoning was “to wait and see who blinks first.”

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