Pubdate: Tue, 06 May 2014
Source: Patriot Ledger, The  (Quincy, MA)
Copyright: 2014 GateHouse Media, Inc.
Author: Lisa Kashinsky


Town meeting voters approved a bylaw that would ban public 
consumption of marijuana on Marshfield's streets, but still allow 
qualified patients to consume the drug in public in non-smoking forms 
Monday, May 5. Voters also approved a zoning bylaw that would 
restrict a potential medical marijuana facility to the I-1 industrial 
zoning district in town Tuesday, April 29.

MARSHFIELD -- Medical marijuana might be legalized in Massachusetts, 
but its use and distribution will be heavily regulated in Marshfield.

Close to the end of town meeting on Monday night, May 5, the 
dwindling number of remaining voters approved a bylaw that would ban 
public consumption of marijuana on Marshfield's streets, but still 
allow qualified patients to use the drug in public in non-smoking 
forms, such as edible brownies or chocolates. Those who smoke pot in 
public would be slapped with a $300 fine for each offense.

Marshfield Police Chief Phil Tavares said he crafted the bylaw out of 
concern for public safety and the effects of secondhand smoke.

"We should all be in agreement that use of it (marijuana) could have 
an affect on bystanders," Tavares said at Town Meeting, adding that 
the bylaw would "preserve the good quality of life we have in 
Marshfield and continue to make it a good place to live." Tavares 
said he amended the bylaw from originally banning all citizens from 
smoking marijuana, or tetrahydrocannabinol - THC, the active 
ingredient in marijuana that produces a high - in public to allowing 
patients with a "valid medical certificate of a debilitating 
condition" to consume it publicly in all forms except smoking to help 
get the measure passed.

"I think this is an issue where the line is going to continually be 
drawn and this bylaw will help reduce community problems now and more 
importantly if this becomes legalized for recreational use in the 
very near future," Tavares said in an interview. "I was very thankful 
for the overwhelming support and pleased with the results at Town Meeting."

Since possession of less than an ounce of marijuana was 
decriminalized in 2009 and medical marijuana was legalized in 2012, 
Tavares said police have seen marijuana use and abuse rise and that 
there is a need for better enforcement of fines.

"People are no longer fearful of arrest, fines, or are no longer 
embarrassed to have it in public," Tavares said, adding in later 
interview that since decriminalization, "in the last five years the 
number of marijuana violations we've issued have doubled." Tavares 
said a 15-town anti-crime task force comprising towns in Plymouth 
County has also reported an "upward trend" in marijuana in that timeframe.

Pembroke recently passed an amendment to the town's bylaws banning 
the consumption of marijuana in public places as well as private 
property without the consent of the owner or person in control of the 
property at its Town Meeting. The amendment also included a $300 fine.

The Marshfield bylaw also comes on the heels of the state approving 
20 Registered Marijuana Dispensaries on Jan. 31, including 
dispensaries in Plymouth and Brockton, just a few towns away from Marshfield.

Tavares said without the bylaw, citizens might be afraid to be in 
public areas such as a beach, park or playground if a person or group 
of people was smoking marijuana. A qualified patient could also smoke 
marijuana as a passenger in a motor vehicle, potentially impairing 
the driver, he said.

"Marijuana impairs bodily and mental functioning," he said. "We ask, 
don't smoke it in public and don't smoke it and drive." The bylaw is 
similar to the town's existing bylaws about not drinking alcohol or 
smoking tobacco in public, Tavares said.

While a medical marijuana facility is not imminently coming to 
Marshfield, voters also approved a zoning bylaw that would restrict a 
potential medical marijuana facility to the I-1 industrial zoning 
district in town in a two-thirds vote on the second night of town 
meeting on April 29.

The bylaw includes a number of regulations for a facility should one 
come to town, including building size, hours (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.), 
signage, and security measures. Other stipulations include providing 
services to qualified patients by appointment only, free delivery to 
qualified patients, having no employees under the age of 18, and 
having a 500-foot setback from places where children congregate, such 
as schools, playgrounds or the Marshfield Boys & Girls Club, said 
Michael Baird, the Planning Board member who gave the presentation on 
the article.

A medical marijuana facility would also have to get a special permit 
from the zoning board.

"This is more regulated than plutonium. This is easily the most 
regulated thing in the Commonwealth," Baird said. "Failure to pass 
this bylaw will essentially establish very little regulation on where 
these facilities will go and what they look like."

Advisory board member Elizabeth Zimmer said her board had recommend 
approval of the article because it was a "really comprehensive way of 
addressing citing of marijuana facilities." Resident Joe Shrand asked 
that the bylaw be changed to say that physicians can "certify" 
patients to use medical marijuana instead of the word "prescribe," 
noting that physicians "cannot actually prescribe marijuana."

After being questioned by resident Bob Parkis about where a facility 
could be located, Baird said a facility could be located on the 
portion of Route 139 that is in the I-1 district.

Health board chairman Gerald Maher supported the bylaw.

"Chief Tavares met numerous times with the board of health with this. 
This law was wide open. I don't really think the state did a great 
job on it," Maher said. "This motion is going to close a lot of the 
loopholes and this town should be very thankful to have Chief Tavares."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom