No Medical Marijuana Treatment Center in Reading, Town Meeting Says

Votes 113-39 preemptively to change zoning to prohibit such a center here.

Reading Town Meeting voted 113-39 last night to prohibit any future medical marijuana treatment center from opening here.

On Nov. 6, Election Day, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot question that allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Reading voters supported the question by just under 60 percent, Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner told Town Meeting.

Town Meeting members spent an hour and a half discussion the zoning article that would prohibit such a center here.

Proponents of the article, including Police Chief James Cormier, argued that the possession, distribution and cultivation of marijuana violate federal law. A treatment center would draw transient traffic, he said, and could become a target for robbery.

Town Public Health Director Ruth Clay and Elaine Webb, president of the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse’s board of directors, also urged the town to close the door, via the zoning article, on a treatment center here. It’s important to protect our youth, Webb said. They want us to be leaders, she said and protect and support them. A marijuana shop is, she concluded, the “antithesis” of that.

Arguing against what they said were scare tactics, opponents of the zoning change said allowing a treatment center here would support Reading voters’ position on the ballot question and be compassionate for patients who are prescribed marijuana for medicinal use

Since the ballot question passed, up to 35 centers could open statewide – five in Middlesex County, Cormier told Town Meeting.

Proponents and opponents argued about whether treatment centers increase or decrease marijuana use and crime.

If Town Meeting chose to allow a center to open here, Cormier said before the vote, the Reading Police Department would “do our very best to assure the quality of life you expect.”

Town Counsel Gary Brackett reviewed the warrant article before Town Meeting.

“We think this is legal,” he said, of zoning approach.

One of the issues with voting so soon after voters approved the ballot question, according to the discussion, is that some questions about future treatment centers remain unanswered, such as state regulations. There are a lot of unknowns, according to Town Planner Jean Delios.

Sentiment seemed to swing toward the zoning change after a Town Meeting member suggested that treatment centers might be better located in communities with more expertise in using marijuana medically.

Ironically, Reading revised its zoning bylaws to make it easier for businesses to open in town, if they need to make only minor changes to their storefronts, Delios pointed out.  She described zoning as a legal avenue for local government to determine what they want in their community.  

Jessica November 14, 2012 at 06:54 PM
See, if everyone were high right now, this would be a mellow conversation.
Mary Juana November 14, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Jessica, right on. This decision makes sense for the superficial appearance Reading continues to present. As a town we wouldn't want to receive any of the tax revenue one of these centers could generate. Let's just wait a few more years until they want to raise our taxes again, and see what happens.
Rob November 14, 2012 at 07:31 PM
We'll be lucky if its a few years before they want to raise taxes again.
Brandon Chapman November 14, 2012 at 09:41 PM
These "centers" are supposed to be not for profit, so there would be no substantial tax revenue to realize.
Pete November 14, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Why is the Reading police captain spending any time whatsoever trying to subvert a law passed by the majority of state residents? I thought he was supposed to enforce the laws. These actions are akin to the southern states passing laws to dilute voter registration and racial integration.
Joe Veno November 14, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Pete, The Reading Police do not have a Captian. ???
Pete November 14, 2012 at 11:53 PM
OK. The chief. Why's he wasting my tax dollars trying to invalidate a law?
Pete November 15, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Kevin- I have MS. Every day is a struggle with pain and discomfort. I applaud the state supporters of Medical Marijuana for their compassion. I'm embarassed, however, by the Town Meeting members who are attempting to circumvent the distribution provision of the soon-to-be-law by zoning it out of the town. How righteous of them ... How many of them are painfully disabled? These people do not represent my best interests. 113-39? How do I find out who voted which way? I want to be sure to show the supporters of the narrow-visioned effort the same compassion they've shown me. OBTW - while I'm in some other local town seeking relief from my deteriorating condition, I'll probably shop there for other legal, town-acceptable goods and fare. I thought Reading was "business friendly"? Isn't there an "adult" zoned area over by the DPW (convenient on/off access from Rte 95) whose zoning would support such a state legalized and tax paying enterprise? Reading needs to get its head out of the sand. The winds of change are blowing and the answer isn't to simply don another sweater.
Pete November 15, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Actually Brandon, I think you're confusing corporate income taxes with local taxes. Reading has no direct linkage to corporate taxes but does to sales tax, property taxes and meals tax. Not sure how much "substantial" is but I'm pretty sure it would be more than an empty store front or new construction.
Karl Weld November 15, 2012 at 04:47 AM
The law is not invalidated by the fact that Reading amended its zoning bylaws to prevent the operation of one of these businesses. A vast majority of Town Meeting members decided that this is not something desirable to have in town, in much the same way they could decide that any other type of business is not desirable, even if it's legal. For instance, Town Meeting could decide that Reading will be a dry town. No liquor licenses given, even though alcohol is a legally sold product.
Karl Weld November 15, 2012 at 04:50 AM
And the Chief has an obligation to report his concerns to Town Meeting so that Town Meeting Members can make an informed decision. Arguments were presented both for and against this zoning change. It's called good government.
Sparket Schmooz November 15, 2012 at 11:57 AM
If patients need to grow there own cannabis search out Jorge Cervantes, he has some grow video's online. You maybe covered under section 11: "Section 11. Hardship Cultivation Registrations. The Department shall issue a cultivation registration to a qualifying patient whose access to a medical treatment center is limited by verified financial hardship, a physical incapacity to access reasonable transportation, or the lack of a treatment center within a reasonable distance of the patient’s residence." See www.mass.gov for full text
Brandon Chapman November 15, 2012 at 04:02 PM
I understand that, Pete. The point I was trying to make is that just because a business may generate some tax revenue does not mean it's a great idea to let them operate in town. I disagree with that reasoning
Reading girl November 15, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Agreed. Alcohol, the REAL gateway drug. Typical not in my backyard. Sure didnt waste anytime. Voters approved medical marijuana by a majority.
Reading girl November 15, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Love the quote "treatment centers might be better located in communities with more expertise in using marijuana medically." Which means NOT Reading. Where could that possibly be in Mass where the law was just passed?
Pete November 16, 2012 at 02:10 AM
I agree Karl. Reading’s Town Meeting does provide a forum for good government. Procedures, however, do not guarantee good government. Especially not when they are subject and succumb to outside pressures. How else could this initiative receive such overwhelming support in a secret ballot election but lose so badly in a public meeting of our elected representatives? Might it have been a sense of intimidation from their peers and our “proponent” police chief who, judging by the article, does not appear to have been there as an impartial contributor. A target for robbery chief? Really? Judging from our past, just like all the gas stations and convenience stores in town I guess.
Pete November 16, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Also, I find the analogy to alcohol sales in town to be rather ironic given the vast number of liquor licenses doled out to local businesses the last several years. That reflects business supply expanding to fill user demand. Hmmm … Maybe Reading isn’t as strait-laced as we like to pretend.
Pete November 16, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Thanks. Understand. Unfortunately I'm not much of a farmer ...
Pete November 16, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Let me rephrase that as "circumvent the law". I believe that's more in tune with the southern states approach.
Fred Van Magness Sr. November 16, 2012 at 03:02 AM
There is no law right now. The legislature had not taken a vote as of May 1, 2012 according to the Secretary of State. The Reading Police Chief is a professional and was doing nothing to subvert any law. What was on the ballot (Question #3) was for voters to express an opinion to the legislature. Voters do not make laws....only legislators, and they have not taken a vote yet. And we know from MA history, ballot initiatives don't always become law, even if the voters support the question.
Reading girl November 16, 2012 at 10:25 AM
This is the "problem". It would not be a "Pot Den". How out of touch. It would be just like a pharmacy. Sick people going for "medication" that helps the.
Reading girl November 16, 2012 at 10:27 AM
Thank You Pete. Very well said.
Jessica November 16, 2012 at 11:03 AM
You should investigate what these places are like in the other states that allow the store fronts. They are very far from pharmacies.
Reading girl November 16, 2012 at 11:47 AM
My thoughts exactly. Rushing to judgement.
Reading girl November 16, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Pot Den...what an antiquated phrase. There are already pot dens in your neighborhood, you apparently do not know it. This would be a LEGAL regulated store for people with a prescription from their doctor. NIMBY as usual in Reading. BTW, I do not require this product nor do I use it illegally.
Pete November 16, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Excellent point Fred. The ballot initiative (the whole initiative not just pieces of it) that was passed overwhelmingly by the people of Mass. and the residents of Reading, kicks off a legislative process that will create the law. We’ve all been a bit lax in our terminology. That fact further demonstrates just how ludicrous and, to me anyway, plain silly the Town Meeting vote was. What were they voting on? Hypothetical zoning issues? When’s the vote on where we might locate an inter-galactic refueling station?
Pete November 16, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Also, I certainly do not mean to question the professionalism of our chief of police. What I question is his use in this situation. He’s facing a massive paradigm shift that anyone in his position would have difficulty promoting. It’s like having oil executives provide their views on green energy proposals. That role would have been better served by an independent third party.
knowa November 17, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Please sign the White House petition to let Marc Emery complete his sentence in Canada http://wh.gov/XXp9
Derek November 18, 2012 at 04:16 AM
This is absolutely not a different issue from Question 3. The ballot question read "IN MASSACHUSETTS", which most certainly implies "IN YOUR HOMETOWN". We ARE in Massachusetts, aren't we? But I admit that I haven't read the details of our zoning law. Maybe it said "Treatment Centers", so a "Sales Location" will still be allowed? A Treatment Center is probably not a great idea anyway (i.e. come here to use it when you need to)... that would create a lot of DUIs. Exactly what was the wording of the zoning change? Perhaps the states official wording will work around our new zoning law? I would expect ANY distribution center to be required to store their controlled substances securely.
FlyingTooLow November 19, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Several years ago, I had surgery on my right shoulder. Pain medication was prescribed..."take one capsule every 4 hours." I took one capsule. I was down for over 20 hours. When I came to, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. The next time I felt discomfort, I smoked a small amount of marijuana ...pain gone, no after effects. I threw the pills out. Then I wrote: Shoulda Robbed a Bank My contribution to helping point out just how ludicrous our pot laws truly are. I would be honored by your review .


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