WILLIAMSTOWN -- The Planning Board has agreed to take no action regarding the restriction of medical marijuana dispensaries opening in town during Tuesday night’s meeting.
The discussion followed a memo from town counsel that suggested the Planning Board enact a moratorium on such facilities until the board has studied it in more detail. The memo also contained a model bylaw that would ban facilities in town until June 2014.
Town Planner Andrew Groff explained several towns have enacted such bylaws.
"There could be different impacts than a typical pharmacy," Groff said. "And some communities might regulate it in a stronger manner than traditional retail."
No board member present saw any reason to act.
"I don’t feel a compelling interest to address this, certainly before town meeting," member Chris Winters said.
Board member Ann McCallum said her inclination was to not do anything.
"The message from the voters will back that up," Winters said, referring to how 73 percent of town voters approved in November the ballot initiative allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes and the establishment of dispensaries in the state.
"If I had to make a decision, I’d have to abstain," Chairman Pat Dunlavey said. "I don’t have enough information. I don’t feel any need myself to advance the idea."
The law allows qualifying patients with certain medical conditions to obtain a 60-day supply of medical marijuana. Thirty-five dispensaries would be allowed in the state, with a limit of five per county. The state’s Department of Health has until May 1 to issue regulations -- defining the quantity for a 60-day supply and setting rules for the cultivation and storage of marijuana. Until then, dispensaries cannot open and the DPH cannot issue registration cards.
Voters in Wakefield passed such a bylaw in a 143-9 vote in November. Officials from Peabody, Taunton and Westborough have also suggested bylaws.
But in Berkshire County, towns are waiting. Nathaniel Karns, executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, told New England Newspapers in a Dec. 23 article that it’s "a bit early" to enact municipal bans on the facilities or other laws until "we know exactly what role the communities will have in the process."
In other business, the board discussed rezoning properties on a section of Route 7. Currently, a section of hotels, restaurants and residences between Bee Hill Road and the Taconic Trail are zoned as the Tourist Business District (TB). Winters suggested adding uses from that zone -- like gift shops and restaurants -- to the Rural Residential District 3 zone (RR3). The resulting hybrid zone, he said, would permit business activities the town wants on Route 7, with suitable set-backs, and would allow residential use as well.
Invitations will be sent to people living in the RR3 zone for a public comment at next month’s meeting, before it goes to the Board of Selectmen.
To reach Edward Damon, email