Needham Planning Board approves medical marijuana dispensary zoning plan – Wicked Local Needham

The Planning Board has approved a zoning change that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the northern part of town near Route 128 if approved by Town Meeting in May. Bruce Eisenhut was the only dissenter in the 4-1 vote.

 Pursuant to a suggestion from the selectmen, the zoning plan distinguishes between the cultivation and retail sale of medical marijuana.

 Retail sale operations would be allowed by special permit in the Highland Commercial-128, Mixed Use-128 and Industrial-1 districts, while cultivation operations would only be allowed in the latter two.

 The districts are all located near the intersection of Highland Avenue and Route 128, close to the Newton border.

 Dispensaries would need to be located at least 1,000 feet from schools and playgrounds unless the Planning Board determines that a dispensary opening within 500 feet would not adversely impact such facilities.

 Dispensaries would not be able to open in buildings that also contains a daycare centers. The police chief had asked the board to create a setback requirement of 500 feet from such facilities but the board declined.

 Eisenhut said he voted against the measure because it was too restrictive. He thinks dispensaries should be allowed in a wider area of town, but said that he did not find enough support from other Planning Board members or selectmen for crafting a zoning plan in that vein.

 “This proposal is not much broader than the one that was voted down last time,” Eisenhut said.

 Town Meeting last year rejected a proposed zoning plan very similar to the one approved last week. It would have allowed dispensaries in Mixed Use-128 and part of Highland Commercial-128.

 Eisenhut said he feared the distinction between cultivation and retail might dissuade most dispensaries from applying to open here.

 “The practical matter is that for there to be an economically viable business, there is going to need to be a little bit of production on the premises,” he said.

 Board member Sam Bass Warner co-authored an article with Eisenhut that was distributed at Town Meeting last year opposing the proposed zoning.

 “We submit that the choice of a relatively small and distant zone for a dispensary was made in response to fears, not out of experience,” they wrote.

 “There is every reason to expect that the new dispensaries will prove to be good …Read More

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