Arlington selectmen may support a proposed medical marijuana dispensary, but they refused to take a stand on a warrant article that would pave the way for the 1,890-square-foot clinic slated for Water Street.
The board on Sept. 26 unanimously voted not to take a position on a proposed bylaw amendment that would prevent medical marijuana dispensaries from opening within 500 feet of schools in town supervised by the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The proposed article would keep medical dispensaries from operating within the same building or structure as an early education childcare program licensed by the state’s Department of Early Education and Care. In addition, no medical marijuana dispensary could operate within 1,000 feet of another.
The lawyer for the Massachusetts Patient Foundation, Inc., the group seeking to open Arlington’s first dispensary, has proposed the warrant article in an attempt to overcome ambiguity created by the state’s Department of Public Health’s changing interpretation of its own regulations on dispensary buffer zones.
The article goes before special Town Meeting on Oct. 19.
Uncomfortable with ambiguity
“I am somewhat uncomfortable about this,” said Selectmen Chairman Diane Mahon. “I am just confused why this is here before us at this time with the ambiguity coming from the state agency.”
As recent as 2015, officials assumed that a 500-foot, state-sanctioned default buffer zone that would apply to Arlingoton dispensaries as the town did not set up a buffer zone in its own regulations.
The DPH regulations say a dispensary is not allowed to sit within 500 feet of a school, day care center, or any facility in which “children commonly congregate.” The 500-foot distance under this section is measured in a straight line from the nearest point of the facility in question to the nearest point of the proposed dispensary.