GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

November 27, 2012

City, towns talk pot dispensaries

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — GLOUCESTER — With medicinal marijuana dispensaries a wave of the near future around Massachusetts, a number of Cape Ann officials are discussing how to place or handle such facilities, with an eye toward getting plans in place before their options go up in smoke.

In Manchester, Town Administrator Wayne Melville said the discussion about medicinal marijuana has not come up yet. But with Melville stepping down from his full-time position on Jan. 4 of next year, he said the town will have to start paying more attention to it in the future.

The same can be said for Rockport, as Erin Battistelli, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, acknowledged the issue must be addressed sooner rather than later.

“We (the board) have only met once since election, we have a huge to do list, but it is certainly something that needs to be addressed,” she said.

As approved by voters, the law calls for 35 medical marijuana “dispensaries” across the state, with at least one, but no more than five in each county. State lawmakers, however, have said some aspects of the law will need revision before taking effect, though no one has specified whether the dispensary mandates are among them.

Battistelli said she is in favor of a medicinal marijuana dispensary within the Cape Ann community, adding that the more potential and accessible dispensaries, the better. She added it could be harder for elderly or terminally residents to travel away from Cape Ann to get medicinal marijuana, and said that Cape Ann’s communities should coordinate and work together, as a dispensary could affect surrounding towns, as well.

Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello said Tuesday that city officials have started to talk about the idea of a dispensary in the city. While it has been nothing formal, Campanello said he has been meeting with city staff members about dispensary restrictions and zoning, should there be one.

He said the talks are just in initial stages, but it is a topic that deserves an immediate and detailed discussion.

Noreen Burke, Gloucester’s director of Public Health, said she’s been doing her homework on the topic, but is waiting for state regulation and guidance.

Burke said an open forum was held prior to the election at Endicott College in Beverly to help inform voters over the issue.

“We need to have a thoughtful community process, and some leadership around the discussion so everyone can say their piece,” Burke said.

Burke said the issue is sure to come up at the next Board of Health meeting in December.

Essex police chief Peter Silva said there have been no discussions about any dispensaries in Essex, adding that he feels the laws are too hazy.”I have great concern about the direction this is going,” Silva said. “The laws regarding medicinal purposes are too vague in nature and could harm the community.”

Campanello agreed with Silva’s view on the initial wording on the measure.

“From a law enforcement standpoint, it left a lot of questions that could put a burden on municipalities that would allow a dispensary,” he said.

For the full text of the measure that appeared on the ballot, visit sec.state.ma.us/ele/ele12/ballot_questions_12/quest_3.htm

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