The City Council on Monday night introduced a proposed zoning amendment to create a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in Waltham.

The council, joined by the Survey and Planning Board, discussed the possibility of creating the moratorium, which would put a one-year halt on any possible marijuana dispensaries from being established in the city. Ward 1 Councilor Daniel Romard originally proposed a resolution last December, saying the city should examine the current zoning laws and determine how best to approach the issue of marijuana dispensaries.

“Eighteen states so far have legalized marijuana treatment centers and of those 18 states, each law is different,” Romard said at Monday night’s public hearing. “There’s very little precedence set between any of them and there’s much controversy both positive and negative.”

Waltham has joined many other cities and towns around Massachusetts in trying to determine how to establish guidelines for medical marijuana dispensaries, which were approved during last November’s elections through a ballot question. Currently, the law says that each county must have at least one medical marijuana dispensary, but one city cannot exceed more than five. Romard said that ultimately he isn’t opposed to medical marijuana dispensaries, but that the moratorium would allow for the city to further examine how the dispensaries should be zoned.

“It’s absolutely not my intent to avoid a dispensary in Waltham,” Romard said.

Annette Reynolds, Waltham resident and director of Waltham’s League of Women Voters, spoke out against the moratorium. Reynolds said she understood people’s concerns surrounding the implementation of medical marijuana dispensaries, but pointed out that the council had since November to figure out a plan to deal with the dispensaries’ existence, which are now legal.

Reynolds also said it would be unacceptable if patients, prescribed medical marijuana by a doctor, had to travel to Framingham or Boston to pick up their medicine. Reynolds said she went through chemotherapy about 23 years ago and marijuana could be used to remedy the terrible side affects that go along with the treatment.

“There are those that fear that marijuana dispensaries will attract undesirables to our city,” Reynolds said. “I know what those undesirables look like. They’re the ones whose faces are in grimaces of pain. They’re the ones whose bodies look like they’re hardly bodies at all because of the medicine they’re taking.”

Waltham resident Francis Stanton spoke in favor of the moratorium.

“I would like to rise today and commend Councilor Romard and his comments about being cautious and, dare I say, conservative on our approach to marijuana dispensaries in making sure that if it’s going to happen in Waltham, that it will be done right,” Stanton said.

The moratorium was sent to the Ordinance and Rules Committee, where it will be deliberated further. The Survey and Planning Board will meet to discuss the issue separately on May 1.

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Author: Eli Sherman
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