The debate over medical marijuana continued in Framingham Monday as the Planning Board worked to refine a bylaw regulating where facilities should be located in town.
Several changes had been made to the draft since the Planning Board took up the matter in July, and the board has begun debating where a marijuana dispensary would go. The Planning Board wants to create Medical Marijuana Overlay Districts in which dispensaries and cultivation centers would be allowed.
The proposed dispensary district for the sale of marijuana would run along Route 9 between Temple and Beacon streets, excluding the area of Framingham State University.
Framingham's portion of the Golden Triangle retail area is not yet being considered, because the Town of Natick would need to be consulted, according to Framingham Planning Board Interim Administrator and Associate Program Planner Amanda L. Loomis.
Cultivation could take place in a proposed overlay district in an industrial area in southern Framingham, in an area that lies between Loring Drive and Lindsey Street, and near the Adesa automotive auction lot, said Loomis.
No dispensary may exist within 500 feet from a site containing a school, daycare, playground, park, or any place children congregate, according to the draft bylaw, nor are they permitted in a single family or general residential zone.
It may be difficult for a dispensary to find a site that would accommodate the bylaw, and some tenants in the town's industrial parks were "not exactly thrilled" with having such a facility as a neighbor, said Planning Board Chair Christine Long.
Some proponents, however, don't want marijuana controlled by zoning, including Joe Russo, CEO of Bay State Relief, Inc., a Framingham-based non-profit corporation that wants to provide cannabis under the state's new medical marijuana law.
"These facilities will be professional and primarily medical in nature," Russo said, reading from a prepared statement. "They will be visited by patients with debilitating medical conditions: cancer, ALS, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and Parkinson's Disease, among others. A city or town would be unlikely to zone a clinic or a doctor's office, where patients need to go, in an industrial area alongside manufacturing and industrial facilities."
Zoning could mean eliminating areas best suited for a dispensary, according to Russo.
"Our biggest concern is that, creating a zoning district may zone this business out of existence," said Bay State Relief CFO Andrew Gold, in an interview after the hearing. However, Gold said that he was otherwise happy with the latest version of the draft bylaw, which eliminated provisions–including one that banned home delivery–that were contrary to the state's medical marijuana law.
Not everyone was happy, however. There is a high density of residents along the Route 9 corridor, and the impact of a dispensary has not been discussed with them, according to Town Meeting Precinct 1 Chair Kathy McCarthy.
"It's very poor planning," said McCarthy. "I certainly would not vote for this."
Any bylaw would have to be approved when at next month's Town Meeting, scheduled for Oct. 16, in order to take effect. Without a local bylaw in place, however, a medical marijuana facility could go anywhere in town where it is not restricted by Massachusetts law. Commonwealth law restricts marijuana facilities in areas close to schools, among other locations.
The Planning Board hearing will continue on Oct. 3 at 7:10 p.m.