NORTH ADAMS -- Mayor Richard J. Alcombright has withdrawn a request for a moratorium for medical marijuana facilities wanting to locate in the city.
With no moratorium, a nonprofit seeking to establish a medical marijuana dispensary in the city is expected to go before the Planning Board early next year.
The order for a moratorium, submitted to the City Council from the mayor last week, went before the council's Community Development Committee on Thursday. The Planning Board had previously requested a six-month moratorium.
"For me, it was more of a precautionary measure," Alcombright said after lengthy discussion. "It was covering the bases and doing the homework."
Total Health and Wellness Inc. is currently in Phase 2 of the state Department of Public Health's (DPH) Phase 2 application process. If approved, it would seek the Planning Board's permission to open a dispensary at 26 Roberts Drive. The property is zoned commercial-industrial and does not border any residential properties.
In meeting with the Community Development Committee, Alcombright stated he believed the state regulations are "extremely clear and extremely well-written."
"All I'm really asking for here is the ability to allow the city councilors, along with the Planning Board, to jointly look at this and come up with the best solution," he said.
Planning Board member Wayne Wilkinson argued against a moratorium and said only a change in zoning could dictate where a business could operate; that decision isn't under the Planning Board's purview.
"This [moratorium] seems to be an additional step that we don't need," he said.
The potential site's owner, Dr. Kenneth Sullivan-Bol, questioned the need for a moratorium when the entity wasn't ready to make an application to the Planning Board. A moratorium could expire before the application is ready, he said, and could be looked on negatively by DPH.
"The ends don't justify the means for a tax-paying, commercial business that has a very high tax rate," he said.
Councilor and committee member Nancy Bullet agreed and noted the entity would still need to appear before the Planning Board, where residents can attend to voice concerns.
"A moratorium doesn't do anything but put a negative spin on it," she said.
Councilor and committee Chairman David Bond, along with Councilor Lisa M. Blackmer, also did not support the moratorium. Committee member and councilor John Barrett III was not present.
According to the state DPH, applicants accepted into Phase 2 must demonstrate community support, identify a specific location, show they can comply with all municipal and state rules, regulations, ordinances and bylaws, and have $500,000 in the bank.
The DPH has received applications from 100 nonprofits seeking a required state license for a facility, but will not announce which ones will receive a license until late in January.
DPH is expected ultimately to approve up to 35 medical marijuana dispensaries -- at least one, but no more than five, in each county.
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