Communities are making zoning changes to address medical marijuana law

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In response to the state’s medical marijuana law and recently implemented state regulations, several municipalities have adopted changes to their zoning codes to regulate the areas where registered marijuana dispensaries may locate, and many others are proceeding to do so as the registered marijuana dispensary application process begins.

Under the state law and regulations, a registered marijuana dispensary may not be sited within 500 feet of a school, daycare center, or any facility in which children commonly congregate. Municipalities, however, may also implement local zoning code changes or establish regulations and fees regarding registered marijuana dispensaries.

The regulations to implement the voter-approved medical marijuana law took effect on May 24. Prospective registered marijuana dispensaries will be required to complete a two-phased application process that will begin in the summer of 2013.

In the first phase, applicants must demonstrate suitability, which includes demonstrating that it has $500,000 in its control and available for operations, documentation of its incorporation as a Massachusetts nonprofit entity, and documentation that no member of the entity has a felony drug conviction.

In the second phase, applicants must submit a $400,00 application fee and detailed information around their business plan, operational plans to cultivate marijuana, and plans for security, prevention of diversion, storage, and transportation, among others.

The law requires at least one registered marijuana dispensary – but no more than five – per county.

In addition to zoning changes, a number of municipalities have adopted a temporary moratorium to prohibit the establishment of a registered marijuana dispensary within their borders while they assess the regulations and formulate zoning changes. At least 35 locally approved moratoria have been submitted to the attorney general’s office for review.

See samples of bylaws and ordinances adopted by Massachusetts communities regarding medical marijuana
Written by MMA Legislative Analyst J. Catherine Rollins