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Woburn City Council Approves Medical Marijuana Dispensary Moratorium

The moratorium, which limits dispensaries in any zoning district, will be in place until January of 2014.

Woburn City Council has approved a one-year moratorium on applications for medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

According to minutes from the Feb. 5 City Council meeting, provided by Town Clerk William Campbell, the council voted 7-2 to approve the measure, which will be in place until Jan. 1, 2014.

The move was in response to the passage of a ballot article that now allows medical marijuana in Massachusetts in the November, 2012 election. The passage of ballot question 3 allows for medical marijuana dispensaries, up to five in each Massachusetts county. The new law goes into effect January 1, but requires rules and regulations be set up by the Department of Public Health.

According to the meeting notes, the purpose of the moratorium was to give Woburn officials time to assess the situation and come up with guidelines or restrictions for the city.

"The legislation requires the state Department of Public Health to issue regulations regarding implementation of the legislation by May 1, 2013 which are expected to provide guidance in regulating medical marijuana, including medical marijuana treatment centers," the minutes read. "As the regulation of medical marijuana raises novel and complex legal and planning issues, the City requires adequate time to consider whether to allow facilities associated with the medical use of marijuana, to the extent that such facilities are permitted under state laws and regulations, and, if so, where and under what conditions should such facilities be located in the City of Woburn."

While the moratorium is in effect medical marijuana facilities will not be permitted in any zoning district and use variances are prohibited.

According to the meeting notes, there was also some brief discussion on outright prohibition in the city.

"Alderman Haggerty stated that he will vote against this proposal as he believes the use should be banned outright," the minutes read. "Alderman DiTucci stated that she is concerned that the bans imposed on the use in other communities will not withstand judicial scrutiny, and that this proposal allows the city to await the State guidelines and then deal appropriately with the matter. Alderman Anderson stated that he believes that the use should be banned but he also sees value in imposing the moratorium as well."

In the end Haggerty and Anderson voted against and the rest voted in favor.

David Kimmelman February 13, 2013 at 01:20 PM
Obviously this has become a hot emotional topic, but the use of medical marijuana has been proved effective and useful in so many medical cases and should be allowed. I saw and heard so many comments and propaganda that were false in opposition of this regulation to the point where people were saying this law would allow people to grow marijuana in their backyards etc. These kinds of false comments just mask and unfortunately negate the positive aspects of this regulation. In fact, alcohol abuse and alcohol involved deaths be it vehicular or otherwise are rampant in our country, yet how often do we hear of marijuana related deaths? So, why not just legalize it with the same kind of laws we have around drunk driving, tax it heavily and make money off it. This may be more radical an idea than we are ready for, but using marijuana legally for medical purposes should be a no-brainer! Other medically prescribed drugs are and have been lethal and linked to many deaths in the cases of suicide and even murder by overdose. I have never heard of anyone dying from a marijuana overdose. So, I have read this legislation, the pros and cons, and all the propaganda on this topic; the people of Massachusetts have spoken, and why should Woburn go to great lengths to stop the use or legitimate sale of medical marijuana? Just one persons opinion.
Carol Youngclaus February 13, 2013 at 02:37 PM
Two people's, David. IMHO, alcohol is *far* more dangerous than pure cannibis. I'm a child of the '60s and remember well what happened when marijuana was pretty innocent fun for rebellious kids. And I remember how bad it got in the early '80s when dealers started to cut it with all kinds of dangerous stuff, justifying the crackdown (pun intended) on it as a "gateway drug." Yes, weed and any other drug – including and even especially alcohol – can be abused by those who are predisposed to that problem. And I'm not a big fan of pulling smoke of any kind into anyone's lungs, nor of driving or operating machinery when impaired even slightly ... and absolutely not of letting recreational substances get into the hands of kids! But other than that, I think the dangers of marijuana are way, way over-hyped and the potential benefits are pretty well documented. Prohibition didn't work in the last century and it isn't doing so well now ... I'd like to see marijuana regulated (and significantly taxed!) in much the same way that alcohol is now. Done right, I think everyone would benefit.
C.E. Jones February 13, 2013 at 03:01 PM
So...someone who needs medical marihuana lives in a multifamily dwelling.. additionally a pregnant woman lives in the same building....along with children...elderly... etc. The smoke billows throughout building subjecting the others to it...what to do? Any thought? I have no opinion either pro or con with the issue.
C.E. Jones February 13, 2013 at 03:07 PM
PS... if the commonwealth had any sense they impose a tax on it... (just like mostly everything else).
David Kimmelman February 13, 2013 at 03:53 PM
C. E.- Understand your concern. It is well documented that 2nd hand cigarette smoke can cause cancer but I don't believe 2nd hand inhalation of pot will get you stoned unless you are in a very confined space and it does not cause cancer. Don't know if that addresses your concern but it is true.
Phil Carcione February 13, 2013 at 07:26 PM
If Woburn drags its feet then there's a chance 5 dispensaries will open in Middlesex County thereby maxing out the number allowed and the problem goes away at least until one of them closes.
IQ February 13, 2013 at 08:45 PM
There is no way to live life anymore without offending someone. How is it different, really, if someone is smoking cigarettes instead? Or how about playing music too loudly? You can't really get contact-high from your neighbor unless they have a bonfire of pot burning in their house. Even if they blow it directly in your face, you probably won't get high.
IQ February 13, 2013 at 08:47 PM
It's a missed political opportunity for any city that doesn't allow a dispensary, in my opinion.
Earnhardt February 14, 2013 at 01:36 PM
It doesn't make sense, The "Adult District" is in the commerce way area, Why not this? Woburn is going to miss out on taxes when the State decides to tax it, And they will tax it you can bet on it. I think we are opening up the City to a lawsuit if someone or some organization chooses to challenge it, And Woburn's luck at winning lawsuits as been non-existent at best.
David Kimmelman February 14, 2013 at 01:43 PM
Obviously we are just a small subset of the Woburn population voicing our support for a legal marijuana dispensary in Woburn. Perhaps our City Council should consider an open debate or survey to see where the majority falls. I agree with Earnhardt's comment that if someone wants to open a dispensary in Woburn and are turned down that a law suit could be pursued. Do we need to spend legal fees in defense of something the State has already deemed legal? I think not!
IQ February 14, 2013 at 02:22 PM
You raise an interesting point. It makes sense to me to hold referendums at the municipal level because it's a manageable process for the city, the same way a local election is manageable. I would love to see the voting results of the public to approve or disapprove the opening of dispensaries in the city as a whole.
G C February 14, 2013 at 02:32 PM
a. Kick the can down the road, just like the rest of our government. b. You do not need to smoke marijuana. You can vaporize, or have edibles. Many options other than smoking.
Earnhardt February 14, 2013 at 03:35 PM
Obviously the stance they have is out of ignorance. They picture people dealing it from every corner and a joint in every mouth. They have no clue. The owners of these dispensaries would have as much to lose as a package store owner if there was abuse.Maybe more to lose as it would tarnish all dispensaries in the area. This is a typical stick your head in the sand approach.

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