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Wellesley Town Meeting to vote on marijuana dispensary moratorium, ban on public consumption

Posted by Evan Allen  January 23, 2013 12:37 PM

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Wellesley Town Meeting will vote in April whether to declare a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in town, and will decide whether to approve a law specifically prohibiting the public consumption of marijuana.

Massachusetts residents voted in November to legalize medical marijuana, but the decision has left many towns scrambling to write regulations to guide the law’s implementation. It has also raised fears across the Commonwealth of a rise in marijuana use by young people.

The state Board of Health is in the process of writing regulations for the law, but they will not be available until May 1.

“The reason for doing it is there’s very little certainly about the law… This is an important issue to be done right, without a whole lot of guidance at the moment,” said selectman Don McCauley of the moratorium at a meeting on Tuesday night.

McCauley said that the moratorium has been discussed with town counsel, police, the Board of Health, the Planning Department and other officials.

“The sense of the group is discretion is the better part of valor here, and that we should proceed to have a moratorium,” he said.

The moratorium, said McCauley, would last until June 30, 2014. It will not touch on home cultivation of marijuana, which the medical marijuana law allows for patients who cannot access dispensaries.

McCauley said that the article does not ask for an outright ban on dispensaries because the majority of residents in town voted to legalize medical marijuana.

“You have to recognize – two thirds of voters approved the measure,” he said. And an absolute ban, he said, would increase home cultivation in town.

Wellesley is not the only town considering a moratorium. Needham and Burlington, among others, will consider moratoriums at their Town Meetings.

Wellesley Town Meeting will also vote on an article prohibiting the public consumption of marijuana.

The chief of police, said McCauley, believes that it is important that the town bylaws be clear that public consumption of marijuana is not permitted in town.

In 2008, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot initiative that decriminalized possession of small quantities of marijuana. Currently, possession of an ounce or less is punishable by a $100 fine.

Since that decriminalization, young people have been more open about their use of marijuana, according to Wellesley Police. Incidents of marijuana possession at the high school have been on the rise this year.

Town Meeting in Wellesley will begin on April 1.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com

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