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URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v17/n007/a06.html
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Votes: 0
Pubdate: Wed, 04 Jan 2017
Source: Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA)
Copyright: 2017 Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Website: http://www.telegram.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/509
Note: Rarely prints LTEs from outside circulation area – requires ‘Letter
to the Editor’ in subject
Author: Susan Spencer


MILLBURY – After barely drawing a quorum of 100 voters, with an unofficial count of 108, special town meeting voters approved zoning bylaws Tuesday to restrict the location of methadone and other medication-assisted drug treatment centers and to impose a moratorium on recreational marijuana outlets until May 31, 2018.

Both articles received a two-thirds majority to pass, according to Town Moderator John M.  Bartosiewicz.  A vote count was not taken.

Article 3, which established a temporary moratorium on marijuana establishments and the sale or distribution of marijuana and marijuana products, was supported by the Planning Board after its public hearing on the measure earlier in the evening.

Former Planning Board member Anna Lewandowski, who had proposed the moratorium, amended its time period on the floor from the article’s initial Dec.  31, 2017, end date to May 31, 2018.  The change was made after the state Legislature last week pushed back the legal start date for marijuana sales from January to July 2018.

Resident Jeff Raymond questioned the delay, asking whether the town should instead focus on trying to make the legalization of marijuana work.

Under the state’s new time frame, according to Ms.  Lewandowski, the state-appointed Cannabis Control Commission will have until March 31, 2018, to set regulations to provide guidance to cities and towns in regulating marijuana sales and distribution.  She said the moratorium “gives the ( local ) committee time to do this while the state makes their necessary regulations.”

No proposals for marijuana businesses would be taken up by the town while the moratorium is in effect.  The bylaw would not affect medical marijuana dispensaries.

Resident Terry Burke Dotson, who presented the citizen petition to require methadone clinics to be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, public parks or playgrounds, said the measure was necessary “for the safety of our children.”

She said that while she welcomed a methadone clinic to certain outlying areas, “We really don’t need to have people hanging out in town that are under the influence.”

Resident Ellen Powers urged voters to show respect and compassion for people in recovery.  “I think we really have to have some knowledge before we vote on this,” she said.

Town officials have previously said that the bylaw amendment would not affect Spectrum Health System’s plans to open a medication-assisted outpatient treatment center at 50 Howe Ave., Unit M, which received site plan approval from the Planning Board Nov.  14.

“There’s a possibility that Spectrum might change their mind and want to move to a different area in town,” Ms.  Dotson said.  “Or they may want a second clinic.”

The proposal was supported by the Planning Board, Chairman Richard F.  Gosselin said.

The zoning bylaw was modeled after an ordinance in Lynn, which was adopted in 2003 after an earlier version requiring a minimum two-mile restriction was overturned.

Town counsel Brian R.  Falk of Mirick O’Connell said that according to Lynn’s city solicitor, no application had been submitted or a waiver requested for a medication-assisted treatment center since the ordinance was adopted.

Two medication-assisted treatment centers, approved before the restriction, are located in Lynn, according to the state Department of Public Health website.

Mr.  Falk also said that people in recovery from addiction are protected under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.  Pointing to a Pennsylvania case in which restrictions on treatment clinics were thrown out, he said, “Case law on ADA is pretty clear.”

In Massachusetts, outpatient addiction treatment centers have consistently been protected from local zoning restrictions under the state Dover Amendment.

According to Mr.  Falk, the legal risk to the town was not so much in the adoption of a bylaw restricting methadone clinics, but rather in its enforcement.

[non- drug policy related section, snipped]

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