EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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December 19, 2012

Mayor: 'No need to panic'

He says marijuana dispensaries can't apply for license yet

HAVERHILL — Mayor James Fiorentini tried to calm the City Council last night about the possibility of a medical marijuana dispensary opening in Haverhill.

“No one can even apply for a license until the state issues its regulations,” Fiorentini said. “There’s no need to panic on this.”

The use of medical marijuana in Massachusetts was approved by 63 percent of voters in the Nov. 6 general election. The dispensaries will be overseen by the state Department of Public Health, which has until April to release specific regulations.

Concerns for what the city can do to prepare for the possibility of a medical marijuana dispensary came up last night. Councilor William Macek said it is time for the city to come up with a plan to deal with a request to open a dispensary.

“It’s somewhat rushing upon us,” Macek said, about the new law set to take effect Jan. 1. The law removes state criminal and civil penalties for medical marijuana use for patients with certain debilitating conditions. It also provides for 35 nonprofit medical marijuana treatment centers throughout the state, with no more than five in each county. The centers may grow, process and provide marijuana to patients who have a prescription from a doctor.

“We should be proactive rather than reactive,” Macek said. “I don’t want to end up in a situation where something, through a court battle, ends up being brought to the city, like it or not, in a certain area or a certain location or building.”

“Just as we have had to do with adult zones...that every city has to at least provide an area, you can’t zone them out,” he said.

Macek said he provided each council member with a copy of a zoning amendment passed by the town of Wakefield last month. Macek said Wakefield amended its rules to not allow medical marijuana centers in any of its zoned districts.

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