Pittsfield mayor proposes guidelines for medical marijuana dispensaries


PITTSFIELD -- The Bianchi administration has prepared a draft ordinance for permitting medical marijuana dispensaries in the city once the state develops a set of regulations governing them.

"This is a proposed ordinance so we can begin looking at the process," Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi said on Thursday.

The draft, developed by the city solicitor's office, is based in part on local restrictions and regulations developed in other communities in Massachusetts, the mayor said.

The proposal will go before the City Council on Tuesday, and Bianchi said he'd like to see it referred to the council's Ordinance and Rules Committee and to the Planning Board for review.

"This is just the beginning," Bianchi said. "This is a framework that can be expanded upon and refined."

In November, Massachusetts voters legalized medical marijuana and to allow dispensaries to set up shop. Several communities announced plans to ban them -- moves considered unlikely to withstand a legal challenge -- or to restrict dispensaries to specific zones and impose various operating conditions.

While the ballot initiative called for the state Department of Public Health to promulgate regulations within 120 days of the Jan. 1 effective date of the law, many officials expect that process to take longer.

"But we want to be proactive," Bianchi said, adding that he hopes to have an ordinance in place before nonprofit dispensaries are allowed to apply for licenses.

"Location is going to be important," Bianchi said.

The mayor said the ordinance also will address the conditions of a dispensary's operation within state regulations.

The administration's proposal requires a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals for dispensaries and restricts them from being within 500 feet of any residential zone and within 1,000 feet of a school zone or church.

Listed under "Performance Standards" in the proposal are a medical marijuana registration card issued by the state Department of Public Health for dispensaries, along with information on every dispensary agent affiliated with the permit applicant.

A registration card issued by the state DPH also would be required for a personal caregiver for a medical marijuana user. Caregivers must be 21 or older and are prohibited from consuming marijuana obtained for the use of a qualified patient, under the proposal.

Medical marijuana users would require written certification from a physician that specifies the person's illness. Among those listed are AIDS, hepatitis C, Parkinson's disease, ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, Crohn's disease, cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.

To reach Jim Therrien:
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On Twitter: @BE_therrien


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