Where should a medical marijuana dispensary be located? Not too close to anywhere. In fact, nowhere. That’s the substance of a set of ordinances adopted by the town of Essex at a town meeting in June, as reported by the Newburyport Daily News. Dispensaries in Essex must not be within 2500 feet (about five blocks or half a mile) of a school or playground, or within 1500 feet of a residence. As chance would have it, that excludes the entire town except for a couple of dirt paths bordering a swamp.
And now these ludicrous regulations, after a challenge, have been allowed to stand by the Attorney General’s office, which should know better. Shortly after medical marijuana was passed in 2012, Attorney General Martha Coakley declared that towns could not prohibit dispensaries from opening locations within their borders, because if every town did so, the will of the voters in instituting medical marijuana would be nullified. Subsequently however, the Attorney General ruled that towns could declare moratoriums on dispensary construction, and many towns have done so. With this latest ruling, issued in late November, a clear picture of state policy emerges: Towns must allow dispensaries to open, but not now, and not there or there.
As if that weren’t enough in the way of buffer zones, vengeful US attorney Carmen Ortiz is considering whether to use federal regulations to shutter any dispensary within 1000 feet of a school, which would torpedo six proposed locations that comply with state regulations, requiring only a 500-foot buffer.
All such regulations seem to presume that marijuana dispensaries will be waving joints in the faces of passing schoolchildren, enticing them from blocks away. And that includes the innocent children at Harvard, Suffolk, and Emerson, since “school” includes colleges and universities. But who said marijuana policy was sane?
If Ortiz swings her ax and other towns rush to follow Essex’s example, perhaps dispensaries will be located only on mountaintops and offshore rafts. Given the craziness and corruption of municipal management statewide, it would make more sense to prohibit any city or town from locating its council chambers within 2500 feet of a mental health facility or a house of prostitution.