Friday, October 25, 2013 • 1:05 PM Comments ()

Medical-marijuana Plan Moves Forward

posted by Maureen Turner

City Hall is moving ahead with developing an approval process for prospective medical-marijuana dispensaries in the city.

Two groups have applied to open facilities in Springfield and received initial approval from the Mass. Department of Public Health, which is overseeing the new law legalizing medical marijuana. The applicants will also undergo a review by a city committee.

Massachusetts voters approved the law via referendum last year by 63 to 37 percent. In Springfield, it won the support of 61 percent of voters.

The Springfield applicants are Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers, Inc.—a group that includes the ubiquitous Herbie Flores, head of New England Farm Workers; former state senator and Superior Court Clerk Brian Lees; and Mary Frey, the wife for former Hampden District Attorney Bill Bennett, who as DA was a vocal opponent of a law that decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot—and Baystate Compassion Center, Inc.

Springfield is one of a number of communities working with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission on a model zoning ordinance for medical-marijuana dispensaries, according to a press release from the office of Mayor Domenic Sarno.

According to the release, “It is anticipated that the final regulations will include a ‘buffer zone’ whereby no [Medical Marijuana Treatment Center] use or cultivation activities shall be located within a specified distance of a property line (the exact distance or distances to be determined), where activities or uses occur such as a: school, child care, or other places where minors frequent (e.g. a library, ball field, family recreation facility, religious facility or the like), other MMTC’s, a drug or alcohol treatment facility, correctional facility, half-way house or similar facility … or other land uses which are potentially incompatible with MMTC facilities.”

“The City’s intent in carrying out this process is to implement, at the local regulatory level, a careful balance of promoting compassionate, appropriate access for patients with needs; while mitigating security and community impacts,” Sarno said in the announcement. “The City’s internal review committee has developed this process to assure a fair, comprehensive, and open planning process.”

The administration is also considering hiring a consultant (paid for by applicants) to advise the city on “concerns about land use regulation, public health, safety, and monitoring of operations for compliance with local regulations.”

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