Medical Marijuana Zoning Bans Not Permitted: Attorney General’s Ruling on Marijuana Zoning to Effect Everett Efforts

Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office ruled last week that cities and towns are not permitted to enact a ban on marijuana treatment centers. However, he ruling also did allow that towns may adopt zoning bylaws to regulate such treatment centers and may enact temporary moratoriums on the development of the centers.

The Attorney General’s ruling was in response to a recently enacted Medical Marijuana Dispensary Ban in the town of Wakefield, which had sought to ban the opening of such dispensaries within their town limits, after the dispensaries were approved by voters last fall.

Everett, which had been studying a similar ban, and had even drafted the contents of such a ban, will now have to study the AG’s ruling and determine a course forward.

“We’re going to be taking a very close look at the Attorney General’s advisories and see how they fit within our goals for the zoning amendment,” said Assistant City Solicitor David Rodrigues, who had helped to draft the proposed ban for Everett.

Prior to last week’s ruling by the Attorney General, the city was seeking to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, as a way of limiting the crime and social problems that have plagued host communities in other states that have passed medical marijuana laws.

Rodrigues said that one way forward may be to seek a one to three year moratorium on the dispensaries, so that the impacts can be studied and planned for. Another option may be to strictly regulate where such dispensaries could locate within the city, such as banning them from residential areas and within a specified distance from schools and  early education centers.

The state law allowing the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries allows for up to 36 centers statewide in the first year of implementation, and also sets both a floor and a cap on a county basis.

More detailed regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries will be developed and released by the state Department of Public Health later this year.

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