Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee evaluated for location, security, qualifications
SOMERVILLE – Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone has accepted the recommendation of the City’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee to allow four* applicants to seek special permits to open medical marijuana dispensaries at four committee-approved locations in Somerville.
Letters of non-opposition were sent to the selected applicants this week. This clears the first hurdle toward establishing medical marijuana dispensaries in Somerville, which voted by a significant margin (73%) in support of the successful 2012 statewide medical marijuana ballot measure. Prior to final approval, all applicants will need to secure a State license as well as a discretionary special permit from the Somerville Zoning Board of Appeals. Opportunities for community input will be offered during the special permit process.
The three-member committee reviewed applications according to guidelines set forth in the medical marijuana dispensary ordinance adopted by the Board of Aldermen on February 25, 2016. Key criteria for selecting operators included product security, professional qualifications, and pharmaceutical focus. Recommendations were given only for locations within the overlay district established by the medical marijuana ordinance, which restricts dispensary sites to active business districts with access to public transit.
“Our community voted overwhelmingly in favor of making medical marijuana available to patients as did voters across the Commonwealth. In Somerville, we took time to develop a rigorous process for review of applicants and locations and now it is time to move forward to ensure that people in chronic pain, cancer patients, and others suffering from a variety of illnesses and symptoms that can be effectively treated with medical marijuana have safe and reasonable access to this treatment option. Somerville aims to fulfill its duty and responsibility to meet this public mandate,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone.
Like most of Somerville’s 16 traditional pharmacies, medical marijuana dispensaries will be sited in active business districts. The four locations approved include two in Davis Square, one in Union Square, and one in the East Broadway business district.
“There has been significant interest in opening dispensaries in Somerville, just as there has been strong public support for developing an approach that fits with the character of our walkable, transit-oriented community. While many communities have encouraged dispensaries to be far from urban activity, the Somerville community embraced an approach that sites dispensaries in our business districts and squares. This both provides for easier access for patients as well as enhanced security and safety,” said committee member and Director of Planning George Proakis.
Dispensaries in Massachusetts have typically provided benefits to the local community, to support a number of efforts including substance abuse treatment and public safety. It is expected that the City will enter into a public benefits agreement with each selected applicant prior to zoning approval.
The Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee was established by the Mayor to advise him on the submittal of letters of non-opposition. Its members included George Proakis, Director of Planning; Doug Kress, Director of Health and Human Services; and Stephen Carrabino, Deputy Chief, Somerville Police Department.
*Five applicants were issued letters of non-opposition, however, two qualified applicants were approved for the same Union Square site meaning that once that property owner selects a tenant, only that operator will move forward to the special permit process.