8 Things to Know About Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Arlington

Town Meeting will consider two articles on medical marijuana dispensaries later this month. Here is a simple guide to understanding the issue.

We know the medical marijuana dispensary issue can be complex, so we tried to break it down as much as possible, specifically as it relates to Arlington. Here are eight things to know about the issue in town:

1.) How we got here: Last November, Massachusetts residents voted, 63-37 percent, to legalize medical marijuana, becoming the 18th state to do so. In Arlington, the ballot question was supported by 68 percent of the voters.

The new law took effect Jan. 1, and the state Department of Health then drafted medical marijuana regulations, which were released last week. The regulations are expected to be finalized in May and then medical marijuana dispensary applications can start coming in 90 days after that, so in August or September.

2.) What’s Arlington doing to prepare: The Arlington Redevelopment Board is asking Town Meeting to consider two articles on medical marijuana dispensaries later this month.

One, Article 7, would zone medical marijuana dispensaries so that they would only be allowed in the town’s central business district (shown in red on the attached map). The other, Article 8, would put a moratorium on the dispensaries, or delay them from coming, until after the town’s 2014 Town Meeting next April. 

The Board of Selectmen has also supported both articles.

3.) Why no proposed ban: Town officials assumed that an attempted ban of dispensaries would be overturned by the state attorney general, which is exactly what has happened in Wakefield, Reading and other municipalities.

4.) Article 7: Instead of a ban, town officials wanted to create a “responsible and reasonable approach” for managing the dispensaries, according to Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine.

In Article 7, the dispensaries would be limited to Arlington’s central business (B5) district, or the retail area immediately surrounding the town’s main intersection of Mass. Ave. and Mystic and Pleasant streets. The district, along Mass. Ave., only extends west to about Water Street and east to roughly Alton Street.

Chapdelaine said town officials chose this central business district because they wanted any potential dispensaries in the “eye of the public” not “on a side street, or in a neighborhood, or a dark alley for lack of a better term.”

He said they thought, based on “public scrutiny,” the dispensaries would be forced to “operate in a very professional manner.”

In addition to this zoning, the dispensaries would also be subject to environmental review and need permits from the town and state boards of health. They would also need to be the primary use of the retail space.

Without the zoning, the dispensaries could potentially go in any retail space in town, according to Chapdelaine.

5.) Article 8: The moratorium, or delay, until after the town’s 2014 Town Meeting next April would give the town more time to understand all of the nuances of the application process, according to Chapdelaine. It would also give the town the opportunity to revise its zoning plan at next year’s Town Meeting, he said.

A similar moratorium was passed in Burlington and upheld by the state attorney general.

6.) The process: Arlington’s 252 Town Meeting members have the final say later this month. Town Meeting begins at 8 p.m. Monday, April 22, and with both articles so early on the warrant, it’s possible that they will both be addressed that first night.

Since both articles are zoning bylaw amendments, they will require a 2/3 majority to pass.

7.) Number of dispensaries: Each county in Massachusetts has to have at least one dispensary and no more than five, according to the drafted regulations. Chapdelaine said it’s “very possible” that none could open in Arlington.

8.) More information: The state Department of Health website has a section dedicated to medical marijuana. Also, please leave comments or questions in the comments section below.

Stephen April 03, 2013 at 11:56 AM
I actually support both motions, as long as the moratorium passes. Perhaps, Town Meeting will make sure to reverse the warrant article order and pass article 8 (the moratorium) first so as to avoid any issues/prolonged debate with article 7. One obvious flaw in article 7 is the "integrated" model where the weed has to be grown on the premises. Zone B5 has few if any parcels where this can occur. The retail store model ("store front") is more susceptible to fraud, theft and product diversion.
Zoltan April 03, 2013 at 12:44 PM
Because pot dispensaries are prone to being held up it makes sense that they should be situated within close proximity to the police station. 20 pounds of primo weed is a much bigger score than robbing most banks.
Crooked Townies Must Go April 03, 2013 at 12:59 PM
Oh Boy I am sure some mouths are salivating right now.....20 pounds of pot...
Crooked Townies Must Go April 03, 2013 at 01:20 PM
HI Stephen, How are you leaning in the selectmen's race? Do you think it is finally time for a person with good ethical morals get elected? Let's just look at a few of our past selectmen. I will start with Jack Hurd or as he now likes to be called John W Hurd. The only thing that guy was looking for was a big fat pension trying to get any job that he wasn't qualified . Last I heard he is bluffing some housing authority south of Boston. The we have Mrs. LaCourt one word Criminal. enough said there. Then it brings us to Mr. Greeley, boy is he sliding down the drain fast .I thought protecting Johnny was bad . But now not paying taxes ? Come on now .. It is time for a change ..... Kevin Must Go
Zoltan April 03, 2013 at 02:16 PM
In theory Cambridge voters overwhelmingly supported medical marijuana, but in practice within their city it's being met with more resistance than Arlington. " Saying she’s fearful of creating a “wild west” in the city, Mayor Henrietta Davis is pushing the City Council to approve a temporary ban on the sale of medical marijuana in Cambridge. The mayor said at last week’s council meeting that she believes the new shops, allowed under the ballot question approved in November, could bring back the "free love" and "libertarianism" of the ‘60s. "
Josef April 03, 2013 at 04:32 PM
Maybe a former local politician could have one at her house, she likes kids drinking too.
Susan Ruderman April 03, 2013 at 05:34 PM
Greetings from "east to roughly Alton Street!" When we moved here 22 years ago, we lived next to an esteemed structural engineering firm that kept banker's hours, and across from an alley that serviced only a neighborhood sub shop (Luigi's) and a charming pastry store (Helen's). Now my front door functions as a loading zone for trucks that are too long (or think they are too long) to turn into the alley for proper delivery of their alcohol, produce, meat and other supplies. Now the town changed the zoning of my house from R-2 to B-5 (still not sure how that could be done without any notification to us at all but that is what the assessor's database record now says) and allowed a drug treatment facility and music performance space to open up literally in my backyard (a change of use that should have required reopening the special permit held by SG&H since there is literally zero buffer space), but instead American Alarm was allowed to install diesel generators and giant a/c compressors outside my bedroom windows. I get it--things change. And if I don't like it, I should move to Vermont. But the lack of consideration for those of us who have the misfortune of being involuntarily rezoned and subjected to noxious uses of an abutting property should not go even further and allow yet more property value loss by adding a "medical marijuana dispensary" in an area where there is no buffer between residences and businesses of all kinds.
frmr resident April 03, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Stephen H,,, Where do you get you information? "If we could ban dispensaries in Arlington, I would be all for it, since they are a magnet for crime and really, what is the burden on a "patient" having to travel to Cambridge or Boston to get their "medicine". " UCLA study, “Exploring the Ecological Link Between Crime and Medical Marijuana Dispensaries,” October 2011 – In what is likely the most comprehensive analysis of the relationship, or lack thereof, between dispensaries and crime, researchers from UCLA, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, used data from 95 census tracts in Sacramento to analyze two types of crime (violent and property) in areas with varying concentrations of dispensaries. What they found is that while factors traditionally understood to lead to increased crime,,, http://www.mpp.org/assets/pdfs/library/CrimeDispensaries.pdf Now go back to 1937!
frmr resident April 03, 2013 at 05:58 PM
Zoltan wrote: "The mayor said at last week’s council meeting that she believes the new shops, allowed under the ballot question approved in November, could bring back the "free love" and "libertarianism" of the ‘60s. " Please tell me whats wrong wit that,, or are you happy with what the drug war and rap brought us?
frmr resident April 03, 2013 at 05:59 PM
Not a lot when you are using just oils.
Zoltan April 03, 2013 at 06:11 PM
Some people have a talent for being able to cut through that pesky red tape.
frmr resident April 03, 2013 at 06:11 PM
property value loss by adding a "medical marijuana dispensary" ??? How do you figure that a medical marijuana dispensary will devalue you home price. Do you know anyone who needs this herb?? How dare you be all pompous. I will be a widow next year and I'm only 55, my wife is 54,, many surgeries ago on her back and knees she was started on opiates 11 years ago. Urine tests were done to check for marijuana and is she tested positive they would stop her Oxycontin prescription. Three weeks ago, after some blood work she was taken off all opiates because they had done so much damage to her liver and kidney's she would be dead in 6 months. So now, with no access to the chemicals that basically KILLED her the pain she must live with every day is excruciating and watching her cry is destroying me. If you want come visit, let me know, I really could use some company and would love to see you tell my wife that she is undeserving of this herb. Thank god for spell check, it's hard to see through tears. paul@masscentral.com
Susan Ruderman April 03, 2013 at 06:22 PM
People can be against corner marijuana stores *without* being against doctors providing it to patients for whom it is the only effective treatment. Mass. General--along with every other hospital I have ever seen--has a pharmacy. Why couldn't marijuana "prescriptions" be filled there? I can answer my own question: Because this is more of an economic issue than a medical one. Lots of profit to be made by becoming a legal dealer.
r April 03, 2013 at 07:14 PM
Would you rather have a methadone clinic in arlington bringing in junkies that are in their predicament because they are weak destructive addicts, or would you rather have a medical marijuana dispensary bringing in well informed primarily educated people who happen to have a serious disease or illness? At some point in the near future that is what Arlington will have to choose between. We have enough heroin addicts passing out on our public bus system or library, breaking into peoples homes and loitering in the center and the heights as it is. Your use of prescription in quotations mocks those that truly need it, and you sound silly referencing a dispensary as a legal dealer. What are doctors then? Last time I checked they were "legally dealing" boat loads of prescriptions for most folks even if completely unnecessary. Perhaps you should educate yourself on the hundreds of benefits of cannabis and the thousands of negatives of taking prescriptions. Or better yet, stop hiding behind your computer and interact with someone that uses it medicinally.
frmr resident April 03, 2013 at 09:22 PM
Stephen H this medicine is not distributed through hospital pharmacies because the federal government is in the pocket of big pharm, tobacco and alcohol industry that would almost crumble if Marijuana is made legal in any way. Treating these diseases is way more profitable than curing them. It's about money, not the patient. I find it hard to believe anyone with a 5th grade education can not see past this. Some cancer docs say their income tied to treatments! http://www.lifescript.com/health/news/reuters/2012/12/26/some_cancer_docs_say_their_income_tied_to_treatments.aspx
frmr resident April 03, 2013 at 10:00 PM
@Stephen H There is a special place in my heart for ignorant people,,, I am not saying you are stupid, just ignorant. Please feel free to contact me as you are in need of some help and Jesus taught me to help your fellow man. To believe as you do about Marijuana is really a shame as you could probably do a lot of good for others with you desire to do good. You are in my prayers that you never need this wonderful plant. Paul@MassCentral.com
frmr resident April 03, 2013 at 10:03 PM
“I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol. I've never used marijuana and I don't intend to, but it's just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn't succeeded.” Pat Robertson Founder of Christian Broadcasting Network & Christian Coalition! http://marijuanamajority.com/?id=47
frmr resident April 03, 2013 at 10:14 PM
“My philosophy is if you want to smoke marijuana in your basement, I don't care. I'm not going to get a search warrant and kick your door in. I think that's foolish... But...if you get behind the wheel of a car, if you sell the dope to my kid, if my kid sees you smoking...I then will demand that the authorities protect me and my family from you, the marijuana smoker in public. Am I wrong?” Bill O'Reilly Host of Fox News Channel's "O'Reilly Factor" http://marijuanamajority.com/?id=199 I think it's about time we legalize marijuana... We either put people who are smoking marijuana behind bars or we legalize it, but this little game we are playing in the middle is not helping us, it is not helping Mexico and it is causing massive violence on our southern border... Fifty percent of the money going to these cartels is coming just from marijuana coming across our border.” Glenn Beck Television and Radio Host http://marijuanamajority.com/?id=210 Just follow the money!
frmr resident April 03, 2013 at 10:18 PM
Yeah,, Trust "The Man" and Big Pharma! The list below provides information gathered from press releases and other public notices about certain recalls of FDA-regulated products. FDA works with industry and our state partners to publish press releases and other public notices about recalls that may potentially present a significant or serious risk to the consumer or user of the product. Not all recalls have press releases or are posted on this page. The posting of information on this page is separate from FDA's recall classification process. The weekly Enforcement Report lists all recalls after they have been classified by FDA. For more information about FDA’s product recall authority, process and classification guidelines, see FDA 101: Product Recalls. For recall notices older than 60 days, see the Recall and Safety Alerts Archive. http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/default.htm
frmr resident April 03, 2013 at 10:36 PM
@r "Would you rather have a methadone clinic in arlington bringing in junkies" Great example,,, people don't mind methadone clinics as much because they are "saving" people. The reality is that a chemicle dependency on methadone is OK because the "BIG Pharm" can make something that gives the same "high" and by "saving" these junkies, we are doing a service,,, of course the fact that the government, (you and I) pay for these programs,,, is of no consequence. Yes,, Why cure a disease when the money is in treating it. Google: Marijuana cures heroin addiction Marijuana cures alcoholism Marijuana cures nicotine addiction. PLEASE,,,, don't be so blind!
frmr resident April 03, 2013 at 11:58 PM
@Stephen H http://jerryrushing.net/?p=2276
Crooked Townies Must Go April 04, 2013 at 01:35 AM
@r. There already is a methadone clinic in Arlington ,
Wind Dummy 25 April 04, 2013 at 03:20 AM
Great, this burb has gone to pot...I really have no problem with it if your sick. But I know shiftless Americans all to well so...I do like them not jamming up the prisons... Just as long as they stay out of my way on the roads. Or work for the Feds that's verboten, drive a truck DOT also not allowed, serve in the military DOD uh ahh, hospitals really?, rail roads whooaa, banks no efing way, fix or fly aircraft? Etc Etc. I'm not sure if I want people stoned and picking up my trash... This is gonna be great. Like an on going three stooges athon...
Zoltan April 04, 2013 at 01:18 PM
Anyone who wants to operate a Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Massachusetts must be able to deposit $500,000 in escrow and pay a $50,000 application fee in order to qualify for approval. This should weed out many of the Mom & Pop start-ups hoping to get rich selling marijuana legally in the state.
r April 05, 2013 at 03:38 PM
then we should ban smoking in public all together, all smokeable substances. Second hand cigarette smoke causes far more damage than marijuana smoke.
r April 05, 2013 at 03:39 PM


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