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Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana zoning hot topic at Montague meeting

MONTAGUE — Medical marijuana zoning laws, Unity Park restroom renovations, and extra funds for the police department and cable contract negotiations all passed by a wide margin at Thursday’s special town meeting.

A bylaw to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and growing facilities by special permit and site plan review was the subject of much debate.

Moderator Raymond Godin reminded the meeting that if the zoning bylaw was not approved, Montague would give up any control over medical marijuana growers and dispensaries that may be approved for the town. With no controls, said Godin, a dispensary would be allowed by right wherever retail businesses are permitted.

Town meeting members expressed widely varied views on medical marijuana.

“Marijuana is a drug,” said Kathleen Burek. “If we bring something like this to town, what’s next?”

Burek mentioned the recent rash of heroin overdoses in the county, and voiced concerns that a medical marijuana facility would invite more drugs to town.

“Montague is already a pot town,” said Charles Kelley. “The only thing this would do is lower the street price. I don’t mind; I smoke marijuana.”

Despite the debate, it may be all moot for the moment.

No Franklin County applicants were among the 20 medical marijuana facilities granted licenses by the state Department of Public Health Friday. There were three applicants in the county, two of which were interested in cultivating the drug indoors in Montague.

Medical marijuana could still come to town.

Eight applicants not approved for their proposed locations will be invited to apply for locations in the four counties where no applicant was granted a license. However, those eight do not include any of the original Franklin County applicants.

If one does come to town, the new bylaw gives the Zoning Board of Appeals the power to consider their building design, security, hours, traffic, lighting and visual impacts in issuing a special permit.

The bylaw also restricts facilities to the town’s general business, central business, industrial and historic industrial districts.

Police Chief Charles “Chip” Dodge said the department would work with growers and dispensaries to ensure security. He would like police to have live, remote access to security cameras in the facilities, which would be used to check on things after business hours, and when their alarms are triggered.

Dodge said the town could also require a grower or dispensary to pay for an extra officer, if the operation places a significant burden on police.

Cumberland fate

The vacant Cumberland Farms building on Avenue A will be spared from the wrecking ball. Voters defeated a motion to allow the town to use $26,000 in previously approved repair funds to instead demolish the building.

Montague Community Cable Inc. now has another chance to secure funding to repair the building. MCCI had come to an agreement with the town’s Economic Development and Industrial Corp. to take over the building, and use it for its new headquarters.

MCCI, which runs Montague Community TV, has had trouble securing financing for the repairs, but is still hopeful.

The building’s roof has leaked for years, causing other problems with the building. While Town Planner Walter Ramsey said it would likely cost $100,000 to repair the roof and get the building into shape, it could cost half as much.

MCCI board of directors President Mik Muller said the job could be done for $50,000 under the auspices of MCCI. Since the company is a private entity, it is not required to pay contractors prevailing wages like public agencies are.

Demolition could still be an option, but it would require a town meeting vote.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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