With the medical marijuana law set to go effect Jan. 1, 2013, Stoughton Selectmen, following the lead of their counterparts in Walpole, voted Tuesday night to send a letter to Stoughton's State House delegation asking for a delay in implementing the law, giving local communities more time to prepare for potential zoning issues.
The medical marijuana ballot initiative (Question 3) passed statewide in this November’s Presidential Election, with 63 percent of Massachusetts voters supporting it.
Only two communities statewide - Mendon and Lawrence - voted against Question 3. Stoughton voters favored it 60% to 40%.
“This proposed law would eliminate state criminal and civil penalties for the medical use of marijuana by qualifying patients,” according to the Secretary of State’s website. “It allows patients meeting certain conditions to obtain marijuana produced and distributed by new state-regulated centers or, in specific hardship cases, to grow marijuana for their own use.”
“The proposed law would allow for [up to 35] non-profit medical marijuana treatment centers to grow, process and provide marijuana to patients or their caregivers,” according to the Secretary of State’s website.
These marijuana dispensaries are of particular concern to local communities. Stoughton Board of Selectmen Chair John Stagnone said the letter would ask legislators to hold off implementing the law until towns have a chance to deal with zoning issues surrounding these dispensaries.
As part of its consent agenda, Stoughton Selectmen unanimously voted Dec. 4 to draft a letter similar to the one Walpole sent its state house delegation. Stoughton's State House delegation consists of State Senator Brian A. Joyce (D-Milton) and State Representatives Louis L. Kafka (D-Stoughton) and William C. Galvin (D-Canton).
The Walpole letter, dated November 27, 2012, reads in part:
The possibility of individuals or firms seeking locations for marijuana "dispensaries" in Walpole or any other Town is of great concern. We are simply not prepared for such a development, and there is no way we can be prepared in that short amount of time. We understand that applications to the DPH can not be filed until the Department of Public Health promulgates their regulations, however the need for a community to address its zoning needs is critical, yet time consuming. What we are not sure of is whether a building or occupancy permit can be submitted to Walpole or any other City or Town after January 1st but before the DPH regulations are promulgated thereby by-passing potential Spring Town Meeting Zoning. We obviously want to avoid this occurring.
Like Stoughton, Walpole has a spring Town Meeting. Stoughton's Annual Town Meeting begins May 6, 2013.
The Walpole letter points out it is "doubtful" that town could "pull together new zoning...let alone schedule and hold a special Town Meeting (at a cost of several thousand dollars)" before the law goes into effect.
Thus, Walpole asked its state house delegation to support an effort "that would delay the effective date of Question #3."
Wrentham's Board of Selectmen also recently voted to draft a version of the Walpole letter to send to its state house delegation.