Medical marijuana moved along

WESTFIELD – Two proposed medical marijuana ordinances are now in the hands of the City Council’s Legislative & Ordinance Committee after amendments were made at the request of the Police Department and Planning Board.
The City Council approved a moratorium last summer which will expire on May 1. The council must act at its next meeting, May 1, to have the general and zoning ordinance in place before the moratorium on medical marijuana facilities is lifted. Failure to act would allow those facilities to be uncontrolled and they could be sited anywhere within the city.
The Zoning, Planning & Development Committee made minor changes to both the general ordinance and the zoning ordinance to clarify language, especially for caregivers who would be allowed to cultivate marijuana for a person who is licensed, but unable to perform the cultivations tasks.
The general ordinance is contained in Chapter 8, Health & Environmental Regulations, under Article VII, Controlled Substances & Medical Marijuana for the purpose of protecting the public health and to ensure that the medical use of marijuana (Cannabis sativa) if properly integrated with the public welfare.
The general ordinance, adopted under Chapter 369 of the Acts of 2012 of the Commonwealth and regulations promulgated by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), empowers the city’s Board of Health to enact “any additional rule or regulation concerning the administration of this ordinance.”
The zoning ordinance identifies zoning districts in which medical marijuana dispensaries and growing facilities will be allowed. The proposed ordinance would allows dispensaries in Industrial A districts through a site plan review by the Planning Board and in a Business B district through a special permit issued by the Planning Board.
The ZP&D modified the general ordinance to read: ”Further, any person possessing a personal or caregiver registration (issued by the DPH) for the purposes of medical marijuana cultivation shall also provide notification, including a copy of the (DPH) registration documents, to the Westfield Police Department within 10 days of obtaining said registration, including renewal thereof.”
The ZP&D Committee also modified the “prohibition of marijuana in certain location” to include “on or in any city owned, operated, or leased buildings or land, controversial language because the city has an ownership interest in public housings throughout the city.
The committee also made a change to the zoning ordinance to increase the buffer zone around medical marijuana dispensaries or processing facilities to 1,000 feet “around schools and other areas where children commonly congregate.”
The zoning ordinance language would have established a 500-foot buffer, but that buffer was increased to 700 feet in the Planning Board’s recommendation to the City Council.
The ZP&D Committee requested a map containing the all of the schools, child care facilities and places where children commonly congregate superimposed over the Industrial A and Business B zones to determine if increasing the buffer to 1,000 feet would have a significant effect on where the medical marijuana facilities can be located.
The Attorney General has notified cities and town that zoning requirements which in effect prohibit the location of marijuana facilities in a community will be over turned and vacated, leaving the community without local zoning control.

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