On Wednesday, Attorney General Martha Coakley ruled that towns in this state, including Reading, cannot ban medical marijuana dispensaries, according to BostonHerald.com. Towns can, however, use zoning rules to keep dispensaries in a certain area.
Even though Reading voters supported the ballot question on election day by just under 60 percent, Reading Town Meeting voted 113-39 last November to prohibit any future medical marijuana treatment center from opening in town.
The town will have to rethink that strategy.
According to Wakefield Patch, Coakley ruled that a zoning ban on medical marijuana dispensaries approved at their Town Meeting last year conflicts with state law.
"The (law's) legislative purpose could not be served if a municipality could prohibit treatment centers within its borders, for if one municipality could do so, presumably all could do so," Coakley wrote in her decision to reject the Wakefield bylaw.
Health Director for Reading, Melrose and Wakefield Ruth Clay said that Reading and Wakefield will now look at other options, including a temporary moratorium, according to the BostonHerald.com article.
"We were never morally opposed to medical marijuana. We were very concerned about how (the ballot question) was written, with a lot of opportunity for abuse," Clay said.
Coakley did approve a bylaw adopted in Burlington that places a moratorium on dispensaries, according to BostonHerald.com, similar to the one recently proposed in North Reading that would temporarily prevent anyone from licensing a dispensary in town.
Reading Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner said he was disappointed in Coakley's decision.
"I understand the Attorney General’s opinion, but the town has felt that it is appropriate to regulate and/or prohibit these dispensaries under the town’s zoning powers, just as we regulate other uses throughout the community," he said.
He noted that the town has other options, including:
- Appeal the decision
- Not regulate dispensaries
- Impose a moratorium for a year
- Regulate dispensaries by controlling what zoning districts they are permitted in
"We will have to have a discussion among all stakeholders within the next few weeks and determine how the community wants to proceed," Hechenbleikner said.