The city’s Board of Health will be asked to consider passing a regulation to allow the Boston Public Health Commission to permit and regularly inspect medical marijuana dispensaries in Boston.
“The siting of medical marijuana dispensaries in Boston raises local concerns that need to be addressed,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the health commission. “We plan to work closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to make certain that dispensaries are appropriately managed and adhere to local and state regulations.
"We need to support patient access as well as ensure that neighborhood and public health interests are met, and we believe that an additional local regulation can help accomplish that balance.”
Boston’s proposal comes after a recent deadline when Phase I applications for opening a registered medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts were due to the state Department of Public Health.
In addition to providing local permitting and inspection authority, a Board of Health regulation in Boston would allow city officials to address issues that are not currently covered by state regulations.
Officials said the local regulation would require dispensaries in Boston to deliver medical marijuana to patients who might experience a hardship getting to the dispensary site. Setting standards for educational materials that patients receive, placing additional limitations on signage and advertising beyond the state requirements, limiting hours of operation, and requiring extra security for dispensaries that plan to operate after dark are additional suggested components of a proposed regulation.
The commission said it would work closely with the city’s Inspectional Services Department to ensure that facilities in Boston are in compliance with all existing state and city regulations governing the operation of dispensaries and distribution of medical marijuana.
Since last November, the health commission, Boston Redevelopment Authority, Inspectional Services Department and the Boston Police Department have been working together to review the new law and the state regulations, and to address concerns identified by residents and patients.
In December, the Boston Zoning Commission approved an amendment to the zoning code that would prohibit dispensaries from opening in residential areas and make them a conditional use in most other parts of the city, requiring applicants to appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals. The state regulations also require dispensaries to be at least 500 feet from schools, daycare centers and other places where children congregate, such as community centers. Municipalities have discretion to create more stringent requirements for the location of dispensaries.
In the first round of applications, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health plans to license up to 35 medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, including at least one but no more than five in each county. The state will review Phase I applicants for financial viability and criminal history. Applicants accepted in Phase I will then be invited to submit Phase II applications, which will involve a much more thorough review of the detailed business, security and personnel plans for each proposed dispensary.