GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

September 30, 2013

Essex eyes med pot dispensary rules

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ESSEX — Town officials are working on permit language geared toward placing a potential medical marijuana dispensary in Essex, and such a proposal could go before the town’s voters at a Special Town Meeting set for November.

The selectmen formally opened the Special Town Meeting warrant last week, and the to-do list targeted for the Nov. 18 meeting is already beginning to fill up.

During a board meeting last week, officials discussed revisiting a federal channel encroachment study, which was shot down by voters at a Town Meeting earlier this year, and money for design plans and construction for northern Conomo Point.

“I think we have to keep pushing forward to improve public access,” Selectman Lisa O’Donnell said of the Conomo Point funds.

Selectman Susan Coviello said the item is a particularly important one and added that she is not comfortable with it appearing in November, but officials agreed to keep it at least on the draft warrant for now.

Officials also discussed the option of enrolling the town in the Northeast Mosquito Control District, an issue that may come before voters in November, as well.

On the medical marijuana front, selectmen had approached the Planning Board earlier this month in hopes of agreeing upon a one-year medical marijuana facility moratorium. But communities who have sought to block any such dispensaries or even delay applications for such a facility have been shot down by the state.

Under the medical marijuana referendum that gained sweeping approval across the state last November —including from voters in Essex — up to 35 such dispensaries are due to be approved across the state, with no more than five, but at least one, mandated for each county.

In that vein, the selectmen and Planning Board are working on language regarding a special permit process allowing one in Essex, and Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki said the language is being discussed with an eye toward bringing the permit issue before voters in November.

Meanwhile, Zubricki also said that three marina owners on the causeway in Essex are very supportive of a federal encroachment study of the Essex River — a study that would be the first step toward a dredging of the river.

At the same time, Essex police Chief Peter Silva said he is also planning to approach voters asking for six electrical control units, commonly called Tasers. The issue was set to come before voters last year, but Silva ultimately pulled the article from the warrant.

He said six Tasers would work best; one would be housed in the station, and others would be used by shifts, plus backup units.

”The climate of people fighting law enforcement is quickly rising,” he said.

Silva said chemical agents such as Mace or pepper spray are sometimes ineffective.

“If somebody knocks you down and gets your firearm, you’re going to have a big problem on your hands,” he said.

Silva said that, while some will likely be critical of acquiring Tasers for a small police force, town officers have dealt with violent offenders. Most recently, a motorist from New Hampshire became combative with police.

“Times are changing right now,” he said, “and we need to change with the times.”

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.