While it seems unlikely that there would be an adequate patient base to support three or four medical marijuana clinics in Pittsfield, applicants for special permits should be treated consistently.
That wasn't the case with Happy Valley Compassion Center, whose bid to convert the former Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on East Street into a medical marijuana facility was rejected by the Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday night.
The ZBA's action came a week after the Pittsfield Community Development Board unanimously endorsed the project. The clinic would have less of an impact on the neighborhood than did the KFC, but residents and representatives of local businesses asserted to the ZBA that the clinic would somehow pose a threat to the neighborhood. That area of the city is really no different from Dalton Avenue, where two other groups were awarded special permits.
Pittsfield, like Lee, supported creation of medical marijuana clinics on the ballot in 2012, but it is a different story when one is proposed for a specific neighborhood. It is difficult to see how cancer patients or people seeking treatment for Parkinson's or chronic pain will endanger anyone when they come for medical marijuana. Fears that the clinics will become full-service pot shops if marijuana is legalized on November 8 is speculative, and it may be that marijuana shops if approved will pose no more threat than do liquor stores, which are plentiful in Pittsfield.
Medical marijuana clinics are legal in the state by vote of Massachusetts residents and the marketplace will ultimately determine how many a community or region can support. To that point, applicants deserve to be treated fairly by municipal officials.