SHREWSBURY, Mass. — Medical marijuana is now legal in Massachusetts, and in Shrewsbury, planners are grappling with if and how to regulate marijuana dispensaries.
Worcester Board of Health Director Derek S. Brindisi updated planning board members Thursday on the new laws enacted by voters in November, and what challenges that brings to residents of Worcester and Shrewsbury.
Brindisi said that it "does not make a lot of sense" to restrict Worcester's zoning against dispensaries, because, he said, hundreds of residents will file for growing permits under a hardship clause.
The hardship clause may allow a patient who cannot afford to purchase marijuana or cannot get to a dispensary to grow a 60 day supply, according to Brindisi, whose board oversees health concerns in both Shrewsbury and Worcester.
"There's serious concerns as to what's a 60-day supply, and how do you control it," Brindisi said. "There a number of things we don't know because the regulations are not set."
However, limiting dispensaries may not limit medical marijuana use. The law became effective Jan. 1, but the state has until May 1 to issue formal regulations. In the meantime, patients with physician approval may grow their own at home.
Dispensaries cannot open until the state issues its regulations. Several communities have already taken steps to prevent dispensaries from opening within their jurisdictions.
Board members noted that the Westborough Planning Board on Wednesday proposed a bylaw completely banning dispensaries in that community, and, as a fall-back, included a proposal that would limit dispensaries to adult entertainment districts.
Shrewsbury Planning Board members acknowledged that regulating medicinal marijuana may be difficult, while acknowledging that, despite the fact that several states like Massachusetts have legalized the drug, but that it is still illegal under federal law.
"You're shooting at a moving target," said Chairman Melvin Gordon, "and it's moving real quick."
Download the state's frequently asked questions sheet on medical marijuana at the link below.