On Springfield

Sarno Wants More Time on Pot Dispensaries

Add Springfield to the list of communities nervous about the possibility of a medical-marijuana dispensary opening in town.

Earlier this week, Mayor Domenic Sarno announced that he wants the city Planning Board to impose a moratorium on allowing any dispensaries in the city “until the City has time to fully assess the law and to put in place a comprehensive plan.”

According to a press release from the mayor’s office, “There is a necessity for the City to have time to develop local controls to address permitting, siting, as well as public health and safety issues before any dispensary is allowed to open in the City of Springfield.”

Massachusetts voters legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes last November. The law, which went into effect in January, allows a maximum of 35 treatment centers across the state, with at least one in each of the 14 counties but no more than five in any one county. The Mass. Department of Public Health, which oversees the program, could increase the number of dispensaries in the future if it determines a need.

Initially, some communities sought to ban dispensaries within their borders. But Attorney General Martha Coakley overruled those efforts, saying municipalities can impose regulations on dispensaries, such as limits on where they can open, but cannot outright ban them.

Earlier this summer, the Chicopee City Council voted to restrict dispensaries to the city’s industrial zone and to forbid their siting next to homes, schools and churches.

© 2014 The Valley Advocate