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Marijuana Dispensaries In Belmont? Not Until 2014

Temporary moratorium will be on Town Meeting agenda in April.

While two-thirds of Belmont voters supported the measure in November, don't plan on walking over to your friendly neighborhood medical marijuana dispensary until sometime in 2014 at the earliest, according to the person who will lead the effort writing a new bylaw.

Belmont Planning Board Chairman Sami Baghdady said at the direction of the Belmont Board of Selectmen his group will be presenting a draft moratorium to the annual Town Meeting in April prohibiting medical marijuana facilities in Belmont.

"This is all new to us and every town has to do this the best way we know how," Baghdady told Belmont Patch after Wednesday's Warrant Committee meeting.

But unlike some surrounding towns, such as Wakefield and Reading, which have already placed total bans on dispensaries, the Planning Board's moratorium would have a sunset provision when the delay expires, which Baghdady said would likely be June 30, 2014 but that date would need to be approved by the entire board.

"I'm not 100 percent comfortable banning them outright. I think the better approach would be to freeze them for now while we get more direction from the state. What if the state says you can't ban them which is likely?" he said.

The downtime will allow the state to issue rules and regulations on dispensaries expected sometime in late May or June and allow the Planning Board "time to review them, understand them to draft a bylaw regulating the use of these facilities," said Baghdady.

"The state allows us to issue the moratorium that is 'reasonable' in time and that there is a 'rational' reason for having it and our 'rational' reason is that we are waiting for direction from the state before we move forward," said Baghdady.

At that point, a series of public meetings will be held by the Planning Board at which time an amendment to the town's bylaws would be written and presented to Town Meeting representatives the next time they meet which could be as early as November if the Board of Selectmen request a special Town Meeting.

"We want input on where such a facility would be placed. I think they would not be permitted anywhere near residential neighborhoods or a school," said Baghdady.

"I would hope that we will have something in writing to be voted on," said Baghdady.

If a special meeting is not called, as occured this year, a dispensary bylaw will be scheduled for a Town Meeting vote in April 2014. 

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