Town officials are taking the first step to establish controls should a medical marijuana dispensary sets it sights on Andover.
Although a marijuana dispensary has not yet been proposed in town, planning officials have begun the process of writing a bylaw that would regulate such businesses and limit where they could be located.
This week, Planning Director Paul Materazzo and Planning Board Chairwoman Joan Duff discussed the creation of a Medical Marijuana Overlay District with the Board of Selectmen.
Without such a district, someone could open a pot clinic just about anywhere in town.
“We can’t just ban them and we can’t tuck them away,” said Materazzo, noting that the state attorney general has outlawed both practices.
Instead, he said, the town needs to identify locations and create a bylaw that complies with state law.
“If we do nothing, we take our chances,” he said. “They can go into any part of town that allows medical uses — Dascomb Road, Lowell Street, River Road or downtown. They would be allowed by right.”
The state does set some limits on where such dispensaries can be located, including prohibiting them within 500 feet of a school or where children congregate.
Monday night, Materazzo and Duff identified four locations as suitable for marijuana dispensaries, including areas along Dascomb and Lowell Junction roads, and locations on Haverhill Street and River Road. (See graphic.)
Last November, voters statewide approved the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative, with more than 63 percent voting in favor of the referendum legalizing medical marijuana. In Andover, the measure passed by nearly 59 percent in favor, or 11,170 votes, to 37 percent against, or 7,065 votes.
The law, dubbed the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana Act, took effect this past January. It aims to provide medical marijuana to people suffering from debilitating and painful diseases or conditions that traditional medicine has been unable to treat effectively.