By Gintautas Dumcius
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE — Ahead of Tuesday’s vote on zoning for medical marijuana dispensaries, Brookline residents are touting a poll showing support for including playgrounds on a list of sites that should have buffer zone protections from the dispensaries.
A measure including playgrounds and day cares among sites that should have a 500-foot dispensary buffer zone is up for town meeting debate at Brookline High School’s auditorium at 7 p.m.
If approved, the measure could affect a potential dispensary, doing business as New England Treatment Access, which is aiming to set up shop within the former Brookline Savings Bank building on Route 9 and near two schools and three playgrounds, according to the residents’ group.
Brookline Residents for Responsible RMD Zoning (BRRRZ) says the town’s current zoning standards don’t match up with state standards because they don’t include playgrounds and daycare centers are only precluded from being in the same building as a dispensary.
In a robo-poll for the group conducted from Nov. 11 to Nov. 13, 69 percent of respondents believe Brookline should require the state minimum of a 500-foot buffer zone between dispensaries and schools, playgrounds and daycare centers.
“The fact is, Brookline voters want patients who are chronically ill to receive medicine, but they also want reasonable safeguards around RMDs to protect children and families, and decrease the potential for crime and diversion,” Elizabeth Childs, M.D., a BRRRZ spokeswoman and former state mental health commissioner, said in a settement.
The number of respondents varied from question to question, from a high of 763 responses to a low of 564 when asked whether Brookline should require the state minimum buffer zone of 500 feet. The poll had a total of eight questions.
The survey, conducted by PMI Inc., has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent. Lisa Barstow, a BRRRZ spokeswoman, declined to say how much the group paid for the poll.
Brookline’s zoning bylaws committee has recommended “no action” be taken on the measure, saying it would “effectively ban” dispensaries in the town. “The Committee felt that greater restrictions proposed by the petitioner are arbitrary and motivated by a specific desire to thwart the proposed Brookline Bank site,” the committee wrote.
A statewide ballot initiative allowing medical marijuana passed Brookline in November 2012 with 20,590 votes in favor and 6,727 votes against. Statewide, 63 percent of voters approved the initiative.
The state Department of Public Health announced earlier in November that a total of 16 proposed dispensaries in counties across Massachusetts are in the “inspection phase,” after four more applicants were provisionally approved for counties that did not have one.
One of the four, run by Patriot Care Corp., plans a dispensary in downtown Boston, on Milk Street.
“I am pleased with the steady progress we are making and expect the first dispensaries to open later this winter,” Karen van Unen, executive director of DPH’s Medical Use of Marijuana Program, said in a statement.
Medical marijuana proponents have accused the state agency of moving too slowly in its approval and regulatory process, arguing patients in need lack access to the relief promised by the law’s supporters.
Separately, marijuana advocates are pushing to place a question on the 2016 ballot legalizing marijuana for recreational use.