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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.  

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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