Chicopee Begins Process To Regulate Medical Marijuana Facilities

The City Council is proposing a restrweed farmictive ordinance that will regulate where medical marijuana facilities can be located and how they will be permitted.

The proposal was brought up by member James K. Tillotson. The council voted 12-0 to examine the regulation in its planning, zoning and ordinance committees where it can be modified. The final version will later be returned to the council for final vote later.

“What we are concerned about here is where it will be located,” Tillotson said. “It could be in a place where we don’t want it.”

The state Department of Public Health announced it plans to approve final regulations for distributing medical marijuana on May 24 and could accept applications for dispensaries by this summer and fall.

Recently Attorney General Martha M. Coakley ruled towns and cities cannot completely ban dispensaries for medical marijuana but can adopt measures to regulate or postpone them.

In November, 63 percent of voters approved a referendum that allows people to purchase and use marijuana for medical purposes with a prescription. The law permits up to 35 nonprofit dispensaries or treatment centers that are to be spread throughout the state.

“I’m not in favor of this but the voters of Massachusetts voted it in,” Tillotson said.

Councilor Gerry Roy agreed.

“If you don’t want it in your neighborhood, don’t vote for it for someone else’s neighborhood,” he said when looking at the proposal.

The city’s proposed ordinance calls for anyone interested in opening a medical marijuana facility to apply for a special permit through the City Council.

It will require any facility to be located in a building that measures between 2,500 square feet and 20,000 square feet and restrict them from being located in any medical office where prescriptions are given.

It also has strict guidelines regarding where the sites can be located. A facility cannot be within 300 feet of a residential district or within 500 feet of a church, school, park, playground, play field, youth center or other location where groups of minors regularly congregate.

It also bans a facility from being opened within 1,000 feet of a school attended by children under 18, a licensed day care, a drug or alcohol rehabilitation facility or a correctional facility or halfway house.

Medical marijuana facilities also cannot be located in any building with residential units, including motels and dormitories and they cannot be in a movable structure such as a van.

“It may be so tight it may not be able to go anywhere in the city,” Tillotson said.

Other councilors said they want to be ready when the law goes in and said other communities may be caught without an ordinance once the law is put into place.

Springfield has already started developing its ordinance and the Department of Public Health has been holding sessions about the law, including one that was held last month in Holyoke.