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.