Now what with marijuana law okayed? Councillor is pushing strict zoning

With a voter-approved law allowing the set-up of medical marijuana treatment centers expected to go into effect in January, City Councillor Rob Consalvo is pushing for strict zoning that will keep the centers out of school areas and business districts.

On Election Day, Bay State voters signed off on the ballot question on medical marijuana, known as Question 3, while rejecting another, Question 2, which would have allowed terminally ill patients to end their lives. Question 3 received 63 percent approval statewide; Question 2 was rejected by 51 percent of voters.

Question 1, which dealt with the availability of auto repair information, passed with 86 percent of the vote. Beacon Hill lawmakers had approved a similar law over the summer, but some supporters of the ballot initiative lobbied for voter approval of the law anyway, a move that will leave two similar laws on the books next year unless lawmakers act to reconcile them.

The marijuana law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2013, and the state Department of Public Health is tasked with issuing regulations. A treatment center would have to register with the agency, identify its location, as well as a location for the marijuana, according to Consalvo’s office. Thirty-five treatment centers would be allowed to set up in 2013.

Based on Boston having 10 percent of the state’s population, Consalvo estimates that at least a few will spring up within city limits. “I believe the city needs to be prepared and needs to be prepared quickly,” said Consalvo, who represents Mattapan and Hyde Park. “This is such a new phenomenon that there’s nothing in our zoning code that deals with stores that sell medical marijuana.”

Consalvo has filed a hearing order to investigate how to zone the treatment centers. He suggested limiting the stores to medical areas, like the Longwood area.“The train is coming down the track, whether we like it or not. And we have to be prepared,” he said, adding that he didn’t come out “either way” on Question 3.

Consalvo’s order would invite representatives from the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the state Department of Public Health, the Boston Public Health Commission, the Boston Police Department, and the Department of Neighborhood Development to a possible hearing on the matter.

As to the voting on the questions, Dorchester and Mattapan residents mirrored their counterparts elsewhere in the state, according to a review of bellwethers and unofficial results from the city’s election department. Question 3 fared well in Florian Hall, winning by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin. It also won overwhelmingly in Savin Hill, Lower Mills, and at the Chittick School. Overall, Boston voters okayed Question 3 69 percent to 31 percent. Question 2 was rejected in a narrow vote, 51 percent to 49 percent in Boston and statewide.

John Kelly, director of Second Thoughts: People with Disabilities Opposing the Legalization of Assisted Suicide, said people of color and their turnout in cities like Boston, Springfield, Lawrence, and Brockton, were keys to the ballot initiative’s defeat. “It probably put us over the top,” he said.

Communities of color turned out in large numbers on Nov. 6, with President Obama at the top of the ticket seeking a second term.

Separately, Question 4, a nonbinding referendum asking state lawmakers to lobby Washington D.C. leaders for increased revenues and no cuts to federal safety net programs, was approved in Boston by 76.4 percent of the vote. Left-leaning groups and Democratic lawmakers had endorsed the question in the weeks leading up to Election Day.