City officials said they will continue to investigate an outright ban of medical marijuana dispensaries in Revere, but a new ruling by state Attorney General Martha Coakley looks to put that effort in jeopardy.
Last week, Coakley issued a decision about the bylaws for the new law, voted in overwhelmingly via a ballot question last November.
In her decision, Coakley indicated that a zoning ordinance adopted by Wakefield that bans such marijuana dispensaries conflicts with the new state law.
“That law’s purpose cannot be served if a municipality were to prohibit treatment centers within its borders, for if one municipality were allowed to do so, all could do so, making reasonable access impossible,” read the decision.
The AG’s office did conclude that municipalities can adopt other zoning by-laws to regulate, for example, the location of these treatment centers within the town.
In Revere, councillors said they are continuing to pursue an all-out ban.
“I’m going to do anything I can to prevent one of these dispensaries from locating in Revere,” said Councillor Tony Zambuto. “Do I still want to keep the ban in place? The answer is yes. When we first looked at this law, we believed that there was only required to be one in the county. With that in place, we wanted to make sure Revere wasn’t the location for that one dispensary. We’ll continue to look to see if that’s possible.”
The Council held a public hearing earlier this year to try to speed through an all-out ban, such as was being done in Melrose, Wakefield and Chelsea.
However, the Planning Board voted to put the measure on hold – stopping the Council from passing the ban. In the meantime, Chelsea re-thought its all out ban and, instead, has recently passed a zoning ordinance that allows dispensaries only in its Shopping Center district (which amounts to the Parkway Plaza and Market Basket Mall).
Some City Councillors felt that would probably be the way that Revere goes, choosing a remote area of the city – perhaps – to zone such dispensaries.
“We already started the process,” said Council President Ira Novoselsky. “It is pending in committee. My guess, and only a guess, is that we would do it by zoning rather than prohibiting it entirely.”
According to Coakley’s ruling, municipalities would be able to restrict such facilities with zoning.
Nevertheless, Zambuto said he thought that Coakley may not have jurisdiction over cities. He said he had heard that her ruling only covered towns, and did not apply to city governments.
“I’m not 100 percent sue of that, and I’m still checking on it, but I’m not sure she has the jurisdiction to tell city governments they can’t do this,” he said. “I’m still operating under the assumption we can keep it out. I don’t know that she has jurisdiction over us. I could be wrong.”
Also in her ruling last week, Coakley upheld the ability of Burlington to put a moratorium on dispensaries for a period of time to allow that town to study the issue.
“The temporary moratorium is consistent with the Town’s authority to impose reasonable time limitations on development while it conducts planning studies and considers the implication of state Department of Public Health regulations concerning such centers, which are expected to be issued in May 2013,” read the ruling.