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Wakefield By-Law Will Keep Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Out Of Town

Voters approved measure at town meeting Thursday night by a 143-9 margin.

Town meeting voters approved a zoning by-law Thursday night aimed at ensuring that a medical marijuana dispensary will not be able to set up shop in Wakefield.

The by-law passed with a 143-9 vote following a presentation by Police Chief Richard Smith, who laid out a number of different concerns about the way Question 3 - the ballot initiative approved by voters on November 6th allowing medical marijuana in Massachusetts - will be implemented and what some of its unintended effects could be.

"Although I have deep compassion for those that are ill and infirm, I also feel that allowing a compassion center is not a fit for the town of Wakefield," said the Chief, who noted that the law will allow up to 35 medical marijuana dispensaries to open in Massachusetts. Since the dispensaries would be nonprofit, he noted, there is also no revenue potential offered under the Massachusetts law, nor would there be dosage or quality controls.

Smith also pointed out that marijuana cultivation and commerce remain illegal under federal law, and showed some data illustrating that states with medical marijuana laws have seen increases in substance abuse problems and the related crimes that tend to come with it. As a cash business, he added, dispensaries could be attractive to organized crime elements, and those who run them and use them could also be at higher risk of being crime victims.

"We anticipate a wide-ranging impact on healthcare, criminal justice, public health, taxation, agriculture and zoning," said the Chief, who also pointed out that there is already a fair amount of alcohol and marijuana abuse among Wakefield and Massachusetts young people. "We have enough problems with driving under the influence of alcohol," said Smith. "I don't want to see that double."

After town meeting, Smith told Wakefield Patch that "I think the community has spoken," and that residents "realize the inherent dangers" of having medical marijuana dispensaries in town under the terms of the new law.

The town's medical marijuana bylaw was motivated in part by the anticipation that voters would approve Question 3. Back in September, this website reported on a talking about the desire of local officials to avoid having medical marijuana dispensaries opening up in area towns.

However, there was also an earlier competing warrant article that would have asked the town to allow one specific entity's marijuana dispensary to open up. The measure was withdrawn by area resident Carl Swanson in mid-September, reportedly because he did not want it getting confused with the statewide Question 3 initiative. 

A couple of residents pointed out that Wakefield voters had just approved Question 3 themselves the previous week in the general election. A couple of parents and at least one local business owner spoke in support of the by-law.

Finally, one resident raised an issue that could very well come back and find relevance to Wakefield and the new by-law as it is written. Apparently the zoning by-law applies only to establishments that dispense medical marijuana - which are generally seen as commercial enterprises, government institutions, and other such entities, confirmed town counsel Tom Mullen during the discussion. However, the state's new Question 3 law also apparently allows qualified patients with no reasonable access to a medical marijuana facility to cultivate their own at home.

How would you have voted on the medical marijuana town zoning by-law? Vote in the poll here!

knowa November 16, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Please sign the White House petition to let Marc Emery complete his sentence in Canada http://wh.gov/XXp9
knowa November 16, 2012 at 11:11 PM
White House petition to let Marc Emery complete his sentence in Canada http://wh.gov/XXp9
DBC November 17, 2012 at 04:52 PM
I wonder if the majority of people who voted FOR Question 3 realized the full impact of their vote. Some voters vote with their hearts not their heads.They either do not read or read fully or find access to read the statements concerning the impact for and against a referendum question. If the only reading of the question is in the legalese "garble-de-gook" on the ballot, the consequences of a Yes/No vote could easily be missed. We need forums and better coverage of these issues in order for more voters to make better educated and knowledgeable decisions. I, for one, did not receive the usual red booklet outlining the questions. Did it get mailed? Did the government produce it all? Was it in post offices, libraries and town/city halls? I don't get to those places, since I don't have a car and I live on the outskirts of town. How many voters never saw any in depth explanation of what they were voting for until they were in the voting booth? I researched the question on my own so I felt comfortable voting No on the ballot and would have voted for no dispensary in Wakefield, too.
DBC November 17, 2012 at 04:52 PM
I would not personally deny those who are ill from using marijuana to assist them in overcoming excruciating pain and discomfort as well as helping them maintain proper nutrition to fight their illness. I wish the Question had been worded appropriately so it could have passed with the right safeguards in place. As it stands now, we have the cart before the horse. Although it will help those who medically need it, it has left a Swiss cheese of loopholes and vagueness to allow for a massive abuse opportunity for those with "ill" intent on society. This is something our already stretched police manpower and legal system did not need.
John Mitchell December 06, 2012 at 10:22 PM
I think that Wakefield should be proud to have a Chief willing to take on such a difficult issue. It is obvious from the vote (143-9), what the difference can be when people have more facts. Those who desire medical treatment from marijuana or any other drugs have rights, however they do not represent the majority of our population, and their rights are not more important than the rights of majority. Most people would like to see those who are suffering, not suffer. However, not at the expense of their own children, friends or other family suffering. This law has the potential of causing a lot of unintended consequences, and each of us should be thoughtful both to those who feel they need this law, and to those in our communities who want what is best for their friends and family.

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