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Malden moves to control medical marijuana dispensaries

Posted by Marcia Dick  October 17, 2012 10:54 AM

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The City Council will consider an ordinance that will place restrictions and requirements on any group seeking to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Malden.

The proposal, put forth Tuesday by Ward 4 Councilor James Nestor, comes weeks before Massachusetts voters will go to the polls Nov. 6 to decide the outcome of ballot question 3, which would establish up to 35 medical marijuana treatment centers throughout the state.

"Right now we don't have anything to control where they go," Nestor said of a potential marijuana dispensary, at a Tuesday City Council meeting.

If enacted as currently written, marijuana treatment centers would be prohibited from setting up shop within 300 feet of any residence, school, park, or playground. Any center would have to receive a special permit from the City Council before opening for business. The zoning ordinance also requires 5.5 parking spaces per 1,000 square-feet of property, and separates marijuana dispensary use from other, general medical facilities in the zoning code.

So far, several communities in the state, including neighboring Melrose, are pushing for outright bans on the dispensaries in their communities via zoning ordinances that would define and then outlaw medical marijuana dispensaries in their categories of acceptable property uses.

In Massachusetts, all town bylaws come under review by the office of Attorney General Martha Coakley for compatibility with other state laws. But city ordinances do not face the same process, giving those such as Melrose freedom to pass ordinances as they see fit, according to Coakley's office.

Coakley's office declined to speculate on the legality of bylaws not yet passed at town meetings. In general, laws passed by cities are only reviewable once a legal challenge is filed, and Coakley's office did not comment on the potential legality of the Melrose ordinance.

Matt Byrne can be reached at mbyrne.globe@gmail.com.

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