Pubdate: Thu, 08 Nov 2012
Source: Patriot Ledger, The  (Quincy, MA)
Copyright: 2012 GateHouse Media, Inc.
Author: Jack Encarnacao


QUINCY - A city councilor has proposed an ordinance restricting where
in Quincy medical-marijuana dispensaries can open, a response to the
passage of a state ballot initiative that is expected to be echoed in
communities across the state.

The ordinance, drafted by Brian Palmucci, does not allow dispensaries
within 1,500 feet of a residential district, school, child care
facility or business that serves alcohol. It is being reviewed by the
city's legal department.

"While Quincy overwhelmingly supported that ballot initiative, I don't
think residents would support a medical marijuana dispensary being
established in their neighborhood," Palmucci said. "This isn't to say:
You can't come to Quincy. This is to say we want to set some community

Voters in Tuesday's election passed a ballot question that, come Jan.
1, will allow medicinal use of marijuana for patients suffering from
debilitating illnesses and chronic pain. The law allows up to 35
dispensaries to open in the state, with oversight by the Department of
Public Health.

About 63 percent of the state's voters approved the measure. All South
Shore communities voted for it. In Quincy, the vote was 23,871 to 15,350.

The law is mostly silent on where dispensaries can be located. It does
require at least one and not more than five in each Massachusetts county.

Matt Allen, director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance,
which pushed the ballot question, could not be reached for comment.

Heidi Heilman, president of the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance,
which opposed the ballot initiative, said she expects restrictions to
be proposed in cities and towns across the state.

"Anybody can come in and gut a house and start growing marijuana for
patients with this law," she said. "It's really going to be a
nightmare for local communities."

Weymouth Mayor Susan Kay said she is still figuring out how much
leeway the town has to set rules governing where dispensaries can set
up shop.

"I'm looking to restrict it as much as possible," she said. Hingham
Selectman Bruce Rabuffo said answering questions raised by the ballot
question will be a high priority.

"The people said, 'we want this,' and Hingham did too," Rabuffo said.
"Now what does that mean? It is a serious question."

In California, which legalized medical marijuana in 1996, several
communities have tried to zone dispensaries out of town, resulting in
court battles. A decision earlier this year by a Santa Ana appeals
court prohibited cities from imposing restrictions that effectively
ban dispensaries. The decision invalidated a Lake Forest, Calif., law
the court viewed as a ban.

Shaleen Title, a Medford lawyer with the firm Vicente Sederberg LLC,
which assists medical marijuana patients and growers, cautioned that
dispensary bans could encourage patients to go underground or grow at

"If there are no treatment centers within a reasonable distance from
patients' residences, they would likely be granted a hardship
registration and they or their caregivers would be able to cultivate
their own marijuana," she said.

Because of these concerns, Title said, several communities - including
Los Angeles and Fort Collins, Colo. - have reversed bans on

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Patriot Ledger reporter Christian Schiavone contributed to this story.
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