HOLYOKE — The City Council voted 11-2 Tuesday (Aug. 5) to establish an ordinance to regulate a medical marijuana dispensary by requiring that such a facility get a special permit from the council.
No specific proposal to establish such a facility is being considered, but councilors said it was important to have a zoning rule in place with the likelihood such a proposal might surface.
A proposal had been in the works to put a medical marijuana facility at the former Cubit Wire & Cable Co. Inc. building at 181 Appleton St., but that fell through in June.
The ordinance adopted was a compromise. Some councilors and Planning Board members had favored requiring that approval of a medical marijuana facility be done by site plan review overseen by what they said were city planning specialists.
But other councilors argued an establishment that provides marijuana, medical or otherwise, amounted to a public safety matter that should be subject to City Council review.
A step removed from original versions of the measure was a requirement that a buffer zone be placed around such a facility, say, to ensure it would be 100 feet away from a school. Those who agreed to support the ordinance and who had preferred the Planning Board-site plan review version said no buffer was needed if such facilities can be only in industrial zones and are subject to City Council special permit scrutiny.
Massachusetts voters in 2012 permitted medical marijuana facilities by approving a statewide ballot question, 63 percent to 37 percent.
Marijuana is prescribed as pain relief for nausea, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and other conditions.
“It is a medical use. It is a pharmaceutical use. The law says this shouldn’t be any different than for a CVS,” Ordinance Committee Chairwoman Rebecca Lisi said.
Councilor at Large James M. Leahy said it was proper that approval of such a facility be in the hands of the City Council, but he was concerned that buffers wouldn’t be required.
“This is a very important vote tonight,” Leahy said.
“I thought it was a good compromise,” council President Kevin A. Jourdain said.
“We have a choice of creating some type of zoning or no zoning at all,” Ward 7 Councilor Gordon P. Alexander said. “But let’s get something on the books.”
Voting to adopt the ordinance were councilors Gladys Lebron-Martinez, Anthony Soto, David K. Bartley, Jossie M. Valentin, Linda L. Vacon, Howard B. Greaney, Joseph M. McGiverin, Peter R. Tallman, Lisi, Jourdain and Alexander.
Voting against the ordinance were councilors Daniel B. Bresnahan and Leahy.
Councilors Todd A. McGee and Jennifer Chateauneuf were absent.
The state Executive Office of Health and Human Services June 27 denied a license to a group headed by Heriberto Flores, president of the New England Farm Workers Council, intended for 181 Appleton St. The state decision was in relation to the state auditor in May questioning Flores’ $450,000 salary at the council, on top of the $450,000 salary he collects from an affiliated non-profit, plus questioning travel expenses and other administrative records the auditor believed was lacking.
William M. Bennett, Flores’ lawyer, has said that the decision to deny the license was improper and unfair and a review is being sought of the auditor’s report to vindicate Flores.
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