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Medical Marijuana Ban or Restrictions Possible in Westborough

Town officials discussed this Tuesday night.

Medical Marijuana Ban or Restrictions Possible in Westborough

The new law legalizing marijuana for medical use has Westborough officials discussing proposing zoning restricting – or possibly banning -- dispensaries and cultivation here.

Tuesday night, the planning board directed Town Planner Jim Robbins to draft a zoning bylaw for discussion starting at the board’s Dec. 13 meeting.

The board plans to hold a public hearing on the proposal in early 2013 and then seek town meeting approval in March .

The efforts would be in case the state Department of Public Health hasn’t implemented regulations before the law takes effect Jan. 1, town officials said.

Anyone wishing to open a dispensary or to cultivate marijuana for medical use would have to wait until town meeting voted and for Attorney General Martha Coakley to rule on its legality. The advertisement date starts the clock.

“We need to come up with something – even if it’s just a draft – to get passed, if you’re concerned about the Jan. 1 date,” Robbins said.

Town officials discussed whether to propose a restriction or a total ban. Some expressed concern that the attorney general’s office would reject a ban. Town officials discussed limiting the location as Westborough does for adult entertainment.

Police Chief Alan Gordon, Sanitarian Steven Baccari, School Committee Vice Chairman Stephen Doret, Selectman George Barrette, Town Counsel Gregory Franks and Building Commissioner Tin Htway also attended Tuesday night’s meeting.

Voters approved the new law at the Nov 6 statewide election. Westborough residents supported the measure, Question 3 on the ballot, 5,367 to 3,347.

Planning board Chairman Lester Hensley said the law allows for 35 dispensaries across the state during the first year.

The state Department of Public Health has 120 days, from Jan. 1, to implement regulations, Hensley said.

 “I think that in general, that’s considered a pretty short period of time for the Department of Public Health to promulgate any kind of regulations around this,” he said.

“And the more you look into this more, it’s fairly loosely written. There are a lot of ambiguous terms.”

Hensley said that in states lacking “much more restrictive laws” put in place by their state health department, “the use of medical marijuana has gone far beyond the specific diseases for which it’s recommended. “

“What has resulted, then, is medical marijuana has essentially been broadly used, and gets diverted into the community. And in those communities, there is a proven increase in marijuana use rates among the young population,” he said.

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