Planning Board Considering Medical Marijuana Moratorium Article
The Planning Board will deliberate their position on the medical marijuana moratorium warrant supported by the Selectmen.
Officials are not yet sure how medical marijuana dispensaries would work in Needham, and are trying to get some more time to examine the issue.
The Selectmen presented their views on a warrant article, which would push that decision back for a year, to the Planning Board on Tuesday night. The Planning Board has not taken a position, but Selectmen hope they will back it before it heads to Town Meeting.
The article calls for a year-long moratorium, which would allow officials to address their questions and concerns about how to apply the outlined law at a town level.
Selectman Dan Matthews explained the Selectmen's position, "Purpose of the moratorium is not to do nothing, but to allow some thoughtful consideration. The moratorium time would be put to good use: we can see what other communities are doing."
While medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed under the law, Town officials explained that the law is not clear on how permits would be issued, or where they fit under the current zoning code.
Police Chief Phil Droney's concern, he said, is that "a marijuana dispensary is going to bring a criminal element to the town."
Board of Health and Youth Services officials spoke about the risk of teens getting access to marijuana products.
With these factors in mind, the Town wants to look at other communities in the Commonwealth, and see if the Mass. Department of Public Health expands on its guidelines, and watch dispensaries are regulated in other parts of Mass.
A couple of Needham residents came before the board, one to express opposition to the article, and another to express uncertainty.
"It’s not whether or not medical marijuana is a good thing, or a deisrable thing to allow or not allow." Selectman Mo Handel said, "It’s whether we want to give the town the time to answer these questions. All we’re asking for is time to answer these questions in a deliberate, thoughtful way."
The Planning Board did not issue a recommendation, and will do so at a future meeting. If the Moratorium is approved by Town Meeting, no dispensaries will be set up before March 1, 2014.
Several Needham Health officials spoke out against the medical marijuana initiative, and Gov. Patrick said he would likely vote against the ballot question. Despite that, medical marijuana dispensaries were approved in the November vote. In October, Needham and Newton were considered for Locations of Medical Marijuana 'Consultation Centers', but were ultimately passed over.