Berkshire Cities to Begin Dispensary Discussions

Feb 22, 2013

Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi and his administration have developed a set of guidelines related to the permitting of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

Currently, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is working to meet a May 1st deadline to finalize medical marijuana regulations in the state. Mayor Bianchi said he’d like to see the City of Pittsfield begin working on their own framework in the meantime.

The mayor’s proposal includes some restrictions on where dispensaries  can be located. Bianchi said the guidelines will keep dispensaries out of residential areas, and a distance away from schools. The proposal would also require that dispensaries be approved by the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals, and that those seeking treatment have permission from a doctor, along with a specification of debilitating illness.

Bianchi said that proposal will be introduced to the City Council next week, and that it’s intended to begin conversation with the public.

North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright said that he will begin discussing zoning issues related to medical marijuana in his city in the near future.

As the Department of Public Health works toward developing state regulations for medical marijuana, some have called for a delay in implementation to give cities and towns more time to adjust their zoning laws. One such bill was introduced by State Senator John Keenan, Co-chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health, which would delay the implementation of medical marijuana law by several months.

Geoff Beckwith, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said his organization is asking state lawmakers to allow municipalities more time to adjust their zoning laws to accommodate dispensaries in their communities.

According to the ballot initiative approved by voters last November, 35 medical marijuana dispensaries can be opened across the Commonwealth in the first year of implementation.  

Currently lawmakers in New Hampshire are debating to establish medical marijuana law for the fourth time in six years. The bill would allow up to 5 dispensaries to be opened, and would allow patients and caregivers to grow small amounts for personal use.

Three earlier versions of the bill were vetoed by previous New Hampshire Governor John Lynch.