Pubdate: Tue, 13 May 2014
Source: Eagle-Tribune, The (MA)
Copyright: 2014 The Eagle-Tribune
Author: Bill Kirk


ANDOVER - The town now has its own medical marijuana district.

After over an hour of debate and a series of votes, Town Meeting ruled
in favor of a new bylaw governing how and where medical marijuana can
be sold.

A business looking to sell or cultivate marijuana may only do so in
the Lowell Junction Road area, an industrial zone of town now occupied
by such businesses as Pfizer and Proctor and Gamble and bordered by
Wilmington, Tewksbury and Interstate-93.

The final vote to designate the 600-acre site as the only place for
the Medical Marijuana Overlay District was preceded by a vote against
allowing marijuana sales in a small part of the River Road area near
the Merrimack River and I-93, and was followed by a rejection of a
marijuana district for an area off Dascomb Road, near I-93 and
Frontage Road.

At one point, it appeared there might be no overlay district at all as
some Town Meeting members seemed more interested in scrapping the
whole plan worked on over the past year by the Planning Department.

Planning Director Paul Materazzo presented the first of five articles
on the medical marijuana districts, which laid out the zoning bylaw
for an overlay district. Article 34 included such details as not being
allowed within 500 feet of a school, child care facility, library or
playground. A special permit was needed by the planning board. Only
certain kinds of signs are allowed.

But voters took issue with the bylaw, fearing that it was not strong
enough, while others thought it might be a good idea to vote against
it while voting in favor of Article 35, which would have created a
moratorium on pot clinics until October so that another bylaw could be

Nancy Daly of 3 Hearthstone Place noted that it might be a good idea
to vote against Article 34 and vote in favor of Article 35.

"Does Article 35 allow us to create a better zoning law?" she

Materazzo said "doing nothing is not an option. We need to set up
rules in place should a dispensary be proposed."

Selectman Paul Salafia said the town couldn't ban marijuana
dispensaries because the state's voters, including 60 percent of
Andover voters, supported the sale of medical marijuana in

"If this doesn't pass, Andover would not be able to control the
location of these facilities," he said.

Selectman Brian Major said Selectmen were in favor of Article 34
because "it puts protections in place. Article 35 is just a temporary
moratorium. We'd have to be back here in a few months (for a special
town meeting) to vote on a new bylaw."

At least one resident wanted to know why the proposed zones were in
such far-flung outposts of town rather than being more conveniently
located for people who might be suffering from serious problems, such
as mobility and pain issues.

Materazzo said the zones were chosen in consultation with Police Chief
Patrick Keefe and other town officials to keep them away from
"wherever children might be congregating."

Daly and others said the bylaw was "not strict enough." She said
selling marijuana is "not an ordinary business" and should be treated

"This is like no other business," she said. "It's for an addictive
drug to grow and cultivate. We have two major highways running through
town. We need to make it extremely difficult to open one of these. We
shouldn't be suggesting locations."

She suggested that the 500-foot buffer zone should be expanded and
that a number of other questions need to be addressed, such as how
deliveries would be made and how these operations would get rid of
their wastes, along with odor issues and traffic concerns.

The vote on Article 34 needed a two-thirds vote. When Moderator Sheila
Doherty called for a show of hands, many people voted for it and many
others voted against it. She declared that it passed on a two-thirds
vote but did not call for a standing vote and neither did anyone in
the audience.

The vote in favor of Article 34 made Article 35 unnecessary, so it was

But the votes on the exact locations for the medical marijuana zone
also became contentious, as many of the same arguments were made for
and against them.

Allowing the River Road area to be used as a medical marijuana
district was won a popular majority on a 174-104 vote, but fell shy of
Town Meeting approval because it did not reach the two-thirds threshold.

Article 37, designating the Lowell Junction Road area, was approved by
a show of hands after more lengthy debate.

Article 38, calling for medical marijuana sales in the Dascomb Road
area, also failed - by a vote of 113 in favor to 212 against.

Town Meeting continues at the Collins Center tonight at 7. There are
still about dozen warrant articles that need approval.
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MAP posted-by: Matt