GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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October 25, 2013

Med pot bylaw, dredging top Essex warrant

ESSEX — Town voters will be asked to make some major decisions next month, when a Special Town Meeting warrant asks them to accept language on a medical marijuana dispensary bylaw, sign on for a three-year deal with the Northeast Mosquito Control District, study the federal channel of the Essex River with an eye toward a potential dredging project — and arm police officers with electronic control devices, better known as Tasers.

Officials initially proposed a one-year hold on a marijuana dispensary coming to Essex, but town leaders are now looking to allow and site a potential nonprofit, medicinal marijuana dispensary in the town.

The language in the bylaw that will come before voters in November states that any medical marijuana dispensary proposal would be considered as a special permit, with any such special permit going before the Planning Board for approval. Other examples of specially permitted uses include airports, recreational facilities, private schools, hospitals and nursing homes, according to the town’s bylaws.

Kimberly Drake, who chairs the Planning Board, said the town rarely sees special permits. She said the most recent special permits in Essex were issued for the placement of cell towers.

But three applicants have already approached Essex officials about opening a medicinal marijuana facility or cultivation center.

The bylaw defines a medicinal marijuana facility as a nonprofit that “acquires, cultivates, possesses, processes, transfers, transports, sells, distributes, dispenses, or administers marijuana, products containing marijuana, related supplies, or educational materials to registered qualifying patients or their personal caregivers.”

Unless otherwise specified, the proposed bylaw reads, “Medical Marijuana Treatment Center or Registered Marijuana Dispensary refers to the site(s) of dispensing, cultivation, and preparation of marijuana.”

While Gloucester is taking steps to allow or limit placement of a medicinal marijuana facility based on existing zoning, the Essex bylaw would leave the siting of any facility up to the Planning Board on a case-by-case basis.

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