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Medical Marijuana

Conway studying moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries

CONWAY — Town Planning Board members and four residents at a hearing this week seemed to support the idea of a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in town.

“I’m absolutely in favor of a moratorium to give the town time to determine how it would be regulated and where it would be located in Conway,” said Lee Whitcomb.

Issues the town planners anticipate include security and siting, as well as potential costs to the town. Voters last year legalized medical marijuana use in Massachusetts and state officials are now promulgating rules to govern exactly how the dispensaries would operate. Towns are not allowed to ban dispensaries but will be allowed to regulate where and how they are sited.

Whitcomb said a moratorium would allow the town to address issues, including fees, police involvement and the distance dispensaries must be from schools and populated areas.

To take the lead on drafting regulations, Planning Board Chairwoman Diane Poland suggested creating a committee with all the stakeholders involved, including the police, highway and fire departments, planners and selectmen. For the board’s June meeting, it will invite Selectman Rick Bean, the Planning Board liaison, to help determine the setup of a working group.

Up to 35 medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed in the first year with a minimum of one per county, and a maximum of five. In March, the state Department of Public Health proposed a 45-page draft of regulations. The state department will present final regulations to the public health council today for consideration. And the next step is for the state to start picking which companies can open a dispensary.

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