The Boston City Council on Wednesday, Nov. 28 will begin its discussion of how Boston will handle the legalization of medical marijuana.
"We respect the will of voters," said District 5 City Councilor Rob Consalvo, who filed an order to hold the necessary hearing. "In the first year alone, 35 dispensaries are to open up [in Massachusetts', and it's unlimited after that."
Consalvo said he is guessing that Boston will start with four dispensaries because it contains 10 percent of the state's population. He said he was unaware of whether there is a difference between medical dispensaries and growing facilities but that that issue will be discussed at the hearing.
Unlike several Massachusetts municipalities—such as Reading, which created zoning rules that do not permit medical marijuana facilities—the city of Boston is looking to allow medical marijuana dispensaries through its zoning bylaws.
"There’s nothing in the zoning code that regulates stores that sell medical marijuana because it’s a new phenomenon," Consalvo said. "Whether you’re for or against it—it’s coming."
"We don’t just open restaurants or adult entertainment stores anywhere," he added.
Consalvo said he would like to see the dispensaries located near hospitals because if someone is getting specific treatment for an illness it would make sense to have a "one-stop shop" for getting care.
He said he'd like to not have them in residential neighborhoods, near schools or daycare.
"We don't put businesses in residential neighborhoods," he said.
Consalvo also doesn't want to see dispensaries in the Boston Main Streets districts, including commercial districts like Roslindale Village or Downtown Crossing.
Wednesday's meeting is the first, and it will be followed quickly with others to create zoning laws by Jan. 1.
Several organizations will be involved in the process, including the Boston Redevelopment Authority for zoning regulations, Boston Police Department on how to regulate dispensaries, the Boston Public Health Commission and Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Changing Boston's zoning laws is not uncommon. Roslindale and Hyde Park, for example, overhauled their neighborhood laws in recent years to update from antiquated 1950s zoning regulations.
The new zoning laws need to pass the City Council, the Zoning Commission and then the BRA Board.
As for feedback from constituents, Consalvo said it's all been positive.
"I think people are appreciative we’re getting to regulate it appropriately," he said.