Concerns about traffic and safety regarding the proposed Brookline medical marijuana dispensary are best reserved for the licensing process, and not zoning.
That was the consensus from the Brookline Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, Oct. 28, as they voted no action on warrant article 12, which seeks to impose buffer zones around a potential medical marijuana dispensary that would be stricter than the ones approved by Town Meeting last year.
Currently, the town’s medical marijuana regulations state that any dispensary would have to be at least 500 feet away from a school in town, and cannot be in the same building as a daycare.
But the petitioners of Article 12 want the regulations to closer match the statewide guidelines, which do not allow a medical marijuana dispensary to open within 500 feet of a school or daycare center or “any facility in which children commonly congregate.”
Supporters of the article believe the location would bring unwanted traffic to an already congested area, and would increase the chance of crime in the neighborhood, making it unsafe for children.
Opponents, on the other hand, argue that the location will be secure, and the concerns of crime are overblown.
James Mitchell, who lives on nearby White Place, said he has three children between the ages of 11 and 14, and he is not worried about a dispensary opening at the former Brookline Bank building.
“I don’t see it as an different than when my kids go into a liquor store and buy candy,” he said, adding that he hasn’t heard a good argument from the petitioners about how the article would protect children.
Mitchell Dynan, who lives on Upland Road, said the dispensary location would be “terrible” for the neighborhood.
“No doubt, crime will go up,” he said.
Gladys Ruiz, the director of the Little Children Schoolhouse, which is located on Washington Street close to the proposed dispensary location, said she is planning on opening another location on Boylston Street, which she said will be very close to the former bank building.
She said children will be walking in front of the site every day, and because of that, she supported the article’s stricter buffer zones.
Supporters of the article have stated in the past that the dispensary would get about 130 customers per hour, and about 35,000 visits a month. The dispensary is planning to be open seven days a week, for nine hours a day.
Opponents to the dispensary say that the projected selling price for medical marijuana is $100 below the street price for marijuana, and because of that, the risk of diversion of the product is very high.
Page 2 of 2 – Selectman Chairman Kenneth Goldstein said he believes the zoning mitigates risks as currently configured, and that the concerns expressed by the petitioners and others would be taken into consideration during the licensing process.
Selectmen Neil Wishinsky and Betsy DeWitt said that during that process, the town could set strict limitations, such as requiring visits be by appointment, and limiting the hours of operation, to name a few options.
“I truly believe the best way to control this activity is through our licensing and regulations. Zoning is much less flexible,” said DeWitt.
The town’s Zoning Bylaw Committee also voted unanimously to take no action on the article.
Last year, town officials purposely avoided adding daycare centers into the Brookline regulation definition because it would severely limit the amount of spaces allowable, since there are more than 50 daycares licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Early Childhood Education in Brookline.
Recently, the petitioners amended their own article to state that no dispensaries can open close to playgrounds and parks with play structures, and more than 100 feet from a daycare center.
Under such restrictions, the current proposal from New England Treatment Access, or NETA, to open a dispensary at the former Brookline Bank building on Rt. 9 would not be allowed.
Earlier this year, NETA’s previous CEO, Kevin Fisher, stepped down from his position after it was discovered he made a false claim on his application to the state’s Department of Public Health. In the application, Fisher said that he graduated from Youngstown State University in Ohio. Fisher did attend the school, but the university had no record of him receiving a degree.
Arnon Vered took over as the president of NETA. Previously, Vered served as a business development professional for The Kessler Group. NETA is backed financially by the Kessler family.
Last year, Town Meeting members voted on the medical marijuana regulations, and supported the 500-foot buffer rule without the statewide daycare designation by a vote of 208-7.
In 2012, three out of every four Brookline residents voted in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.
Article 12 would need a two-thirds vote to pass at Town Meeting.
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