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Hingham officials may seek moratorium on marijuana dispensaries

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  February 6, 2013 02:18 PM

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After receiving little direction from the state, Hingham officials are looking to impose a yearlong moratorium on allowing marijuana facilities into the town

According to Mary Savage Dunham, director of community planning, most likely the town will vote on a moratorium at Town Meeting in April, though the specific language has not been drafted.

“At this point, because the [state] Department of Public Health hasn’t put forth their regulations yet, there is some interest here in perhaps enacting a moratorium to push the matter until next year for the simple reason that until we see the state’s regulations, it’s difficult to decide what the town should do, if anything,” Dunham said. “They are thinking we may just wait and see and in the meantime adopt a moratorium.”

Hingham’s plans follow suit of other towns, such as Scituate and Quincy, where officials also hope to enact a moratorium for anywhere from nine months to a year until regulations are in place.

In other communities, such as Braintree, officials have begun looking to put in place more specific regulations on where the facilities could go.

All this is occurring while the state still tangles with how to regulate the medical marijuana. Voters law that was approved by Massachusetts voters in November, and went into effect Jan. 1.

Under the law, the Department of Public Health has until May 1 to enact provisions around the marijuana law. An article in last Sunday's Boston Globe, however, said regulators may not be able to meet that deadline.

Even the original timetable won’t work with Hingham’s Town Meeting schedule, officials said.

“Theoretically the DPH is coming out with their regulations in April. We only have one Town Meeting a year -- in April,” Dunham said. “That would give us time to see what their regulations are and have a reasonable amount of time to determine which direction the Hingham Planning Board would like to go.”

Though 60 percent of the town’s voters were supportive of medical marijuana dispensaries, there has been some talk about enacting bylaws restricting them.

Yet whether those restrictions will be imposed by the state or town is still up for debate.

“I have heard people talk about whether there may be places in town that it might be less appropriate as a use. I haven’t heard restrictions like barring it, but what people are talking about is ‘Is this something we want downtown? Would this be more appropriate for a medical area? Where does this fit?' And that’s part of the conversation we can’t have until we know what the DPH regulations are gong to be,” Dunham said.

Selectman Bruce Rabuffo said he understands the desire to wait on passing zoning bylaw changes around medical marijuana, as current rules aren’t clear.

When the time comes, however, the town will have its hands full figuring out the voters’ intent when it came to passage of the law, and may run into problems with residents for the facilities who don’t want them near their houses.

“It’s one of those, ‘I like the idea but not in my neighborhood,’” Rabuffo said.

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