Grafton Officials Ponder Medical Marijuana Bylaw

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Grafton officials are considering zoning by-laws for a possible medical marijuana dispensary.
Grafton officials are considering zoning by-laws for a possible medical marijuana dispensary. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

GRAFTON, Mass. — In November, voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot question legalizing medical marijuana in the state. In Grafton, almost 59 percent voted to approve the measure.

Though most residents want to see the ill have access to the drug, it creates a scramble for town leaders on zoning, police, and board of health guidelines on where the dispensaries should be located, if someone wants to open one. 

The sticking point is waiting for direction from the Massachusetts Department of Health. Under law, the department has until the end of April to provide details such as, how much is a 60-day supply, who would qualify to run the dispensaries, and how they must be licensed and regulated.

But the medical marijuana law goes into effect Jan. 1 leaving towns like Grafton in the lurch.

“Right now, it’s wide open,” said Robert Berger, the Grafton zoning enforcement officer.  “Wherever you are allowed to have a business, that’s where you can have a dispensary.”

The new law will allow 35 centers to open in the state next year, with a maximum of five per county.

Berger has had discussions with the chief of police on creating a bylaw that would limit locations for a dispensary, if one were to be proposed.

But it takes time to create a bylaw — a petition has to be drafted, followed by reviews with selectmen, the planning board, and then a two-third approval in a Town Meeting, the next which is scheduled for May. 

“I would like to see the dispensaries in restricted zones,” said Police Chief Normand A. Crepeau. “Definitely not in residential areas, definitely not in a school area.”

Crepeau said lawmakers have yet to craft guidelines for law enforcement and until they do, they don’t have much to work with.

Because of the constraints that all towns face, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, a coalition of cities and towns, is calling for a six month delay implementing the law until lawmakers and municipalities can catch up.

Lois Luniewicz, the health agent for the Town of Grafton, said her department would prefer to stay away from zoning issues and instead focus on the public health side of the debate. But she, like Berger and Crepeau, is not sure what will happen next. “Until those regulations are drafted, we’re sitting back.”

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Comments (6)

I agree with Marine.

Why waste resources creating more zoning laws when we already have them to include Pharmacies?

This is a now a drug used for medicinal purposes so the same zoning laws should apply.

Call me crazy, but I would dispense this pharmaceutical at the same place that I dispense all other pharmaceutical, of course, that is not the States way.

With Worcester being so close to Grafton, Does anyone even think they'll have a chance to open one or want to open one in this town? My guess is Worcester will house all 5 establishments for the county. At which point, this question becomes a non-issue for Graftonites.

Although it would be a dream to walk down 122... Dispensary, Pizza shops, Dunkin Donuts, Chinese food, Swirls and Scoops!!! Just saying! wahka wahka wahka...

Great solution to TWO Grafton problems. The railroad guy should announce his plans to build the states largest marijuana dispensory on his railroad property. Then we could bring the stuf in by the carload on rails. Rail guy happy, pot people happy, taxable revenue, it's a win-win for Grafton.

Brilliant solution! I was going to suggest the "medical marijuana" be dispensed where all the other medicinals are dispensed: at the pharmacy. But this solution is really a good one.

Awesome. We should get Willie Nelson to come perform there with the Railroad Revival Tour.