City preps for marijuana dispensing

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By Adam Gaffin, Special to the Reporter
Dec. 20, 2012

City officials have started work trying to figure out where to allow the medical-marijuana dispensaries approved by voters in a referendum last month.

At a hearing earlier this week led by City Councilor Rob Consalvo (Hyde Park, Roslindale and Mattapan), city officials said they have begun developing zoning definitions that would classify dispensaries as a new type of medical facility - and give neighborhood residents a say on exact locations.

The law approved by voters limits the number of dispensaries in any one county to five. City Councilor Bill Linehan said that while he understands the need for medical marijuana use - vowed to keep his district - South Boston and the South End - from becoming packed with the facilities. The district, he said, already has a high concentration of medical facilities - and problems caused by methadone clinics and drug users.

“This is not the only place they should be located in the city of Boston,” he said.

Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, she understands Linehan’s concern about having dispensaries packed in one area and said no dispensary can open in the state until the state Department of Public Health issues its own regulations, possibly by next April or May. She said.

However, she said that effective Jan. 1, any patient who gets a prescription from a doctor can begin growing marijuana for personal use - and that eventually people who care for sick people who need marijuana will be able to.

The Boston Zoning Commission holds a hearing Jan. 16 to being considering specific zoning definitions and restrictions for dispensaries.

Boston Police commanders at the hearing said they have begun to prepare for an increase in property and even violent crime that evidence from other states suggest accompanies dispensaries and individuals using marijuana.

Jonathan Napoli, who owns a hydroponics supply shop in Dudley Square, says he wants to open a dispensary there. Besides serving people who could benefit from marijuana, the store would provide a much needed economic boost to Dudley Square. He estimates that a dispensary could mean 20 new jobs.