Medical marijuana bylaw passes at Saugus Town Meeting

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Town Meeting members approved an article that regulates the location and conditions attached to medical marijuana treatment centers in town.

SAUGUS - Town Meeting members approved three articles on the annual warrant Monday night, passing a new set of regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries and two other measures with little dissent.

The article regulating the location and operation of potential applicants for a medical marijuana treatment facility license in Saugus passed with 42 members voting in favor and two members — Precinct 5 member Brenton Spencer and Precinct 8 member Thomas Traverse — voting against.

While no dispensary has applied for a license in Saugus — Town Meeting applied a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana treatment centers after a statewide vote legalized the sale of marijuana for patients of certain illnesses — the bylaw amendment on the Town Meeting warrant is a precautionary measure.

When the moratorium expires in September, the town will be able to regulate any applicants to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Saugus under the newly approved special requirements.

Before the vote, Economic Development Coordinator Bob Luongo said the bylaws would give the town more power to limit where a company can open a dispensary and what rules they must follow.

"If we don’t pass a medical marijuana law by then, we could be subject to medical marijuana facilities anywhere in Saugus," he said.
The new overlay district where medical marijuana treatment centers are allowed stretches from Route 1 at the Melrose, Revere and Malden town lines up to the former Weylu’s site. It will be bound on the other side by Route 99 from the Melrose line to the merge point of Route 99 and Route 1.

Town Meeting added two amendments to the original article before the vote. One, proposed by Precinct 4 member Bill Leuci, removed most odd-numbered addresses on Route 1 from the area where a dispensary would be allowed.

Another amendment removed a clause from the article disallowing the outdoor cultivation of marijuana. State laws governing the dispensaries allow for outdoor growing, and local bylaws should not contradict state law, Luongo said.

The bylaw does require that marijuana be grown in an enclosed shelter monitored by surveillance cameras and that none of the dispensaries’ products be visible to the public anywhere on its property.

The state completed an initial round of granting provisional dispensary licenses in January. Two of the five allowed licenses in Essex County went to dispensaries in Salem and Haverhill.

The bylaw approved by Town Meeting members requires that any medical marijuana dispensary be legally registered and abide by state laws for the dispensaries, which grow and sell marijuana to patients of debilitating medical conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS and Parkinson’s disease.

The Saugus bylaw limits the location of any medical marijuana treatment centers to outside a 500-foot radius from residences, schools, child care facilities, parks and playgrounds, religious buildings, drug or alcohol rehabilitation facilities or other medical marijuana dispensaries.

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