Pubdate: Thu, 21 Mar 2013
Source: Eagle-Tribune, The (MA)
Copyright: 2013 The Eagle-Tribune
Author: Brian Messenger
Page: 1


Councilor Supports Temporary Moratorium

METHUEN - City officials are expected to seek public input this spring
as they develop zoning guidelines for medical marijuana treatment centers.

A medical marijuana ballot question was approved by 63 percent of
Massachusetts voters last fall. As a result, state criminal and civil
penalties for medical marijuana use for patients with certain
debilitating conditions were removed effective Jan. 1.

The ballot provision calls for 35 non-profit treatment centers
throughout the state. The centers may grow, process and provide
marijuana to patients who have a prescription from a physician.

State health officials on March 29 will release draft regulations
governing its medical marijuana program.

Yesterday, City Councilor Jamie Atkinson said he will call for a
public hearing this spring so city officials can gather feedback
regarding the potential placement of a treatment center in Methuen.

Cities and towns can regulate where the centers are zoned within their
borders but cannot ban them outright. Another option for
municipalities is to approve a temporary moratorium.

Atkinson on Tuesday expressed support for a moratorium, writing in a
Facebook post that he will submit legislation "to temporarily keep
medical marijuana centers from opening in Methuen." The post drew 167

"I didn't think I was going to get such an outcry," said Atkinson. "I
think the majority were against my stance."

In response, Atkinson said he will instead call for a public hearing
after city officials have time to review the state's draft

"If that many people care about the issue I think they should be
heard," said Atkinson. "I'd like to see what other people's ideas are.
The more proactive we are, the more information we can gather, the
better informed we'll be."

Atkinson said he voted in favor of the ballot question last fall and
said medical marijuana in Massachusetts is "long overdue." But he
remains concerned about zoning issues if a dispensary were to come to

"I want to make sure they're zoned properly," said

Community Development Director William Buckley said cities and downs
deserve time to review the guidelines to ensure that the treatment
centers are not placed in an undesirable location.

"I think it would be appropriate for the municipalities to have an
opportunity to digest the new state regulations," said Buckley. "I
don't think we want these things near schools or within residential
neighborhoods, at a minimum."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt