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October 24, 2013

City eyes rules for med pot facilities

An ordinance aimed by the City Council toward addressing the state’s new medical marijuana law would, among other things, prevent marijuana-related businesses from operating within 1,500 feet of churches and schools, and regulate advertising of a potential dispensary or cultivation facility within the city.

The proposed ordinance has already received support from the city’s Planning Board and the council’s subcommittee on planning and development. Voters across Cape Ann and the rest of the state approved the use of medical marijuana and the development of distribution facilities in a ballot question last fall.

But while the voter initiative called for at least one and up to five dispensaries to be opened in each county, including Essex, the law and the state’s Department of Health, which is fielding applications for dispensaries and/or cultivation sites, has left siting of any such facilities up to cities and towns. And the Attorney General’s office has found that communities cannot block such facilities altogether — a step that was attempted and shot down earlier this year in Peabody.

“The voters in Gloucester and statewide passed it overwhelmingly,” said City Councilor Greg Verga, who chairs the Planning and Development Subcommittee. “I think this a good compromise because it controls everything pretty well.”

The council had initially sought to place a temporary zoning moratorium on marijuana treatment or cultivation centers in July, while members worked to develop a suitable ordinance to govern incoming marijuana businesses in the city.

With the passing of this ordinance, as set forth in the moratorium, the moratorium would expire. The full council will look to put the ordinance in place after a public hearing that was continued from Tuesday to Nov. 12.

Writing the ordinance has mostly been a job of implementing new wording into the city charter, with the intent to “address and mitigate the secondary effects of the presence of medical marijuana treatment centers and medical marijuana cultivation facilities and drug dispensing and cultivation oriented businesses.”

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