By Eliza Rosenberry
Bedford residents at the November 9 Special Town Meeting voted in favor of passing all articles presented by the Planning Board, including a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana facilities.
The moratorium essentially presses pause, and will be an opportunity to conduct research on such facilities and consider appropriate zoning policies and locations in town to allow dispensaries to operate.
Prompted by a proposal earlier this year to open a medical marijuana dispensary on Great Road, which was ultimately withdrawn due to proximity to a gathering place for children, the moratorium was met with significant interest at Town Meeting.
“It’s very important to pass our temporary moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries. This provides the town the time to explore the social and legal ramifications,” said Alison Malkin, chair of the Youth and Family Services Committee. Malkin also raised concerns about inappropriate use of the facilities.
In 2012, Bedford voted decisively to legalize medical marijuana. But earlier this week, residents here rejected ballot Question 4, voting against recreational marijuana, by a slim margin — though the ballot question passed statewide — indicating a division in Bedford regarding appropriate use and oversight of marijuana.
Given that medical marijuana has been legal for four years, a number of residents were disappointed it took so long to raise this article.
“I think maybe our town could have been a little more proactive in addressing these issues, rather than asking for additional time,” said resident Scott Counsell.
Selectman Michael Rosenberg acknowledged the delay — “I dropped the ball,” he said — but observed the moratorium comes at a good time, given Question 4.
“With the passage of the referendum, we have the opportunity to address both of these things,” Selectman Rosenberg said. By the time zoning policies are presented for public consideration, likely at the 2017 fall Special Town Meeting, the town could have some additional insight into how the state plans to implement Question 4.
There are currently eight medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts towns: Ayer, Boston, Brockton, Brookline, Lowell, Northampton, Quincy, and Salem. Though they don’t have such facilities yet, many surrounding towns have established clear zoning and special permitting for medical marijuana dispensaries. Burlington and Billerica have designated industrial areas of town for such facilities, while Concord considers dispensaries appropriate for medical zoning areas.