NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

December 13, 2013

Marijuana cultivation a benefit

To the editor:

Alternative Therapies Group, Inc. (ATG) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing registered, qualifying patients access to medical marijuana in a safe and secure manner. ATG is a finalist in the selection process for a Registered Marijuana Dispensary (RMD) license in Massachusetts. The Department of Public Health (DPH), which is managing the licensing process, has indicated that provisional licenses will be announced on Jan. 31, with the expectation that licensed RMDs should be up and running within 180 days. ATG has proposed to dispense this palliative medicine to licensed patients in Salem and to cultivate/process the plants in Amesbury.

Councillor Donna McClure has proposed a bill that would impose a three-month moratorium on siting of facilities related to medical marijuana, making no distinction between cultivation and dispensing. It is our goal to inform the people of Amesbury why the passage of this bill would be a missed opportunity for the city and, perhaps, a direct contradiction to one of the stated objectives of many elected public officials, which is to promote new business growth in the City of Amesbury.

The argument has been made that dispensing of medical marijuana is new territory with regard to zoning. It is a question that many communities have grappled with and, perhaps justifiably, some have implemented temporary moratoriums in order to pursue open discussion on the topic. However, neither ATG nor anyone else is proposing to dispense medical marijuana in Amesbury.

Amesbury’s current zoning laws have adequately provided regulations for siting of light manufacturing and agricultural uses for many years. Cultivating and processing of medical marijuana fit appropriately within these current regulations.

There are only a handful of properties in Amesbury that have the potential to meet DPH standards. Implementing any additional zoning restrictions related to cultivation could possibly eliminate those viable properties. This might result in a de facto “ban,” which has been specifically disallowed by Attorney General Martha Coakley. Even if a moratorium and associated zoning changes did not result in a de facto ban, it will certainly cause our projected operational timeline, and those of other applicants, to be significantly delayed, likely forcing us to seek the partnership of another municipality in order to meet an operational timeline acceptable to the DPH.

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