A Boston City Councilor this week filed an order for a public hearing on zoning regulations governing medical marijuana dispensaries, and Pitts field should quickly do the same. The medical marijuana law approved on Elec tion Day, however, is so vague on the subject of the location of dispensaries that it is unclear what, if anything, communities can do to restrict them.
The law approved by voters calls for the creation of up to 35 marijuana treatment centers, and each county must have at least one. As the centrally located county seat, Pittsfield will almost assuredly host one of the facilities as early as next year. While the law describes safeguards to assure that marijuana at the centers can be accessed only by patients diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition, it has little or nothing to say about whether community regulations can be applied to them.
Boston City Councilor Rob Consalvo said the treatment centers should not be allowed in residential areas or business districts and kept away from schools and daycare centers, which could result in regulations so restrictive they would not withstand a court challenge. Pittsfield’s effort to prevent a private company from bringing a methadone clinic to the city triggered a lawsuit and an ugly political dispute. The passage of the referendum legalizing medical marijuana heralds similar disputes all over the state. Compounding matters is the requirement that the state Depart ment of Public Health devise the myriad regulations and enforcement mechanisms needed to flesh out the law in the weeks ahead, and plenty is destined to fall through the cracks.
Pittsfield City Hall and the City Council should anticipate the arrival of a marijuana treatment center by coming up with appropriate regulations. The uncertainties created by the law will make it difficult to do so, but no less necessary.