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Medical Marijuana

Whately to weigh in on bylaw changes Feb. 25

Medical marijuana dispensary siting, farm stands on agenda

WHATELY — Medical marijuana dispensaries would only be allowed in the town’s industrial zone, and farm stands larger than 300-square-feet would need site plan reviews, according to two new bylaws proposed by the Planning Board.

On Feb. 25, the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the two proposals. Voters will be asked to approve the bylaw changes at the annual town meeting in April.

At the annual town meeting, voters will be asked to replace a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation centers and to adopt the new bylaw.

Although Whately has not received any proposals for medical marijuana facilities yet, the bylaw would be in place for any future proposals, Planning Board member Judy Markland said.

The state Department of Public Health recently awarded 20 provisional licenses to non profits seeking a state license to operate a facility. The state did not award any licenses for Franklin County, but instead invited eight outside applicants to apply in the four counties without licenses. The three local candidates did not get a license.

Originally, one local group, J.M. Farm’s Patient Group with Whately farmer James Pasiecnik expressed interest in locating in town.

So far, one outside group, Patriot Care Corp., has approached Greenfield officials about operating a medical marijuana dispensary in that town.

“Franklin County doesn’t have a facility yet. Someone will be looking for a Franklin County location,” Markland said. “This would be there for a long time. The idea is to have rules and regulations in place before there’s a facility. It’s prudent to have a bylaw.”

The proposed bylaw distinguishes between a registered medical marijuana dispensary and an off-site medical marijuana dispensary.

A registered medical marijuana dispensary includes facilities which cultivate, process and dispense medical marijuana. An off-site medical marijuana dispensary refers to a location separate from the cultivation/processing facility, but controlled by the same nonprofit.

According to the bylaw, medical marijuana dispensaries would be allowed by special permit in the industrial district. Off-site medical marijuana dispensaries would be allowed by special permit in the commercial and commercial/industrial zone. The special permitting authority is the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Hours of operation would be set by the Zoning Board. No business is allowed between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.

No off-site medical marijuana dispensary would have a gross floor area that exceeds 2,000 square feet.

Signage would have to be displayed outside the facility’s entrance, stating “Registration Card issued by the MA Department of Public Health required” in 2-inch text.

No facility is allowed within 300 feet of a school or place where children congregate.

Dispensary owners would have to notify the local building commissioner, board of health, police, fire and zoning board within 12 hours of any violation or criminal activity at the facility.

The Planning Board is also proposing a new bylaw affecting farm stands and greenhouses. The changes would require that farm stands with more than 300 square feet of retail space where at least 25 percent of the product is made by the owner to go through a site plan review by the Planning Board. Farm stands with at least 15 percent of their product made by the owner would be allowed by special permit in agricultural districts one and two. They would be allowed by right in the remaining districts and subject to site plan review.

In addition, year-round greenhouses with more than 300 square feet of retail space would be subject to a site plan review as well.

The bylaw would be only for future farm stands, with existing farm stands grandfathered.

Currently, farm stands are not required to have a site review. The Planning Board proposed the bylaw to have some control over stands that could get large and pose traffic problems.

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