Community Government

City Council Considers Buffer Zones for Marijuana Dispensaries

The Boston City Council considered putting restrictions on marijuana dispensaries and liquor stores opening near rehabilitation facilities at their meeting on Tuesday morning.

District One Councilor Lydia Edwards said she is not against marijuana, in fact she voted in favor of legalizing it; however, she wants to make sure there are rules and regulations to help people dealing with addiction issues.

“When we’re dealing with an emerging industry, zoning is key to health, and that’s where we have the most influence, looking at how we zone, how we space, how we regulate any industry,” she said.

“We need to protect the most vulnerable,” Edwards added.

The council is considering creating a buffer zone that would put specific limitations and regulations on how close a marijuana dispensary or liquor store can open near a treatment operation. Currently, facilities must be at least a half mile apart from one another and cannot be within 500 feet of a school.

However, some worry that creating another buffer zone for marijuana dispensaries is creating another barrier for an industry that has already seen a lot of pushback.

“I would just worry that as we add more items to the list, we are definitely shrinking the small amount of land that we have in the City of Boston,” said Jerome Smith, the city’s chief of civic engagement and director of neighborhood services.

Others said that while they favor marijuana and it has a place in Boston, it is inappropriate for facilities to be near recovery centers. One person said if she had to walk by a dispensary on her way to get services, it might hinder her recovery. Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana back in 2014, has a buffer zone of 1,000 feet between facilities and recovery centers.

Some tossed around the idea of creating advisory boards in every community so they can handle issues specific to them.

Edwards said she would continue to work on this issue in 2019.