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Braintree works to pass marijuana restrictions

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  November 26, 2012 01:55 PM

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Before the new law allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts kicks into effect on Jan. 1, Braintree officials are working to put restrictions in place for where the facilities could go.

Braintree is one of many towns struggling with the zoning and permitting of marijuana dispensaries since the law was passed by voters in November.

While the language for the proposed restriction is still being crafted, Braintree town officials say it will resemble the existing restrictions on adult entertainment facilities.

Most likely, that would mean dispensaries could not be located within 1500 feet of a residential district, private or public school, a place of worship, or a playground. Additionally, dispensaries couldn’t be located within 1500 feet of each other.

Any dispensary that wants to come into the town would most likely also need to receive a special permit, which would give the Planning Board more oversight over any potential facilities.

Despite what the town would like to do, the language would depend on what regulations the Department of Public Health sets around marijuana dispensaries.

“We’re in uncharted territory here. There are variables that have to be worked out,” said Town Councilor Sean Powers, who is spearheading the restriction initiative.

Currently, the law allows for 35 dispensaries to set up shop in Massachusetts, with at least one facility, but no more than five, located in the state’s 14 counties.

Marijuana could be grown and sold from the facilities.

Despite those regulations, the current loose language of the law is problematic, Powers said, as it leaves open questions of where the facilities would go.

“Basically, what I’m trying to accomplish is there is an appropriate place and there are inappropriate places for a marijuana dispensary to be located in town, and anyone who voted for or against the question wouldn’t want to see one of these located next to a school, next to a playground, next to a church,” Powers said.

The challenge is creating an ordinance that, if challenged, would stand up in court. Town solicitor Carolyn Murray is helping with the ordinance.

According to Powers, the town hopes to have the item discussed in the town’s Rules and Ordinance committee sometime in the next few weeks, with finalized language to be voted on by the full council sometime in December.

With Braintree in a prime location for this type of business venture – located close to Boston, one town over from Plymouth County, and at the intersection of three major highways - getting an ordinance in place before the law takes effect is paramount.

“I wanted to get the ball rolling on this so that if someone did want to open up a marijuana dispensary…we had protection and plans in place,” Powers said.

The mayor’s office was not immediately available for comment.

Although communities such as Quincy have already seen pro-cannabis advocates show up to meetings about marijuana restrictions, Powers said he did not know if the town’s process would be controversial.

While the measure passed by a narrow margin within the town – 10,689 in favor to 8,023 against, the law was approved in each of the town’s 12 precincts.

Regardless, whoever wants to have a say in the matter is welcome to be a part of the process, Powers said.

“There will be public meetings. [People] are more than willing to come to offer their thoughts on the use. We’re not trying, I don’t think we can ban these dispensaries from Braintree outright, but we need to be able to make sure if one is going to open up, it’s in an appropriate place for that type of activity,” Powers said.

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