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A Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Northborough? Unlikely, Police Chief Says

The planning board is discussing developing a medical marijuana zoning amendment to propose to the 2014 annual town meeting.

Northborough Police Chief Mark Leahy, credit Charlene Arsenault, Patch
Northborough Police Chief Mark Leahy, credit Charlene Arsenault, Patch
Northborough Police Chief Mark Leahy doubts a medical marijuana dispensary would come to this town.

And if one does, "I think folks are going to be shocked when they see the required levels of security for a dispensary or a delivery vehicle. It goes way beyond what people envision," Leahy told the Northborough Planning Board Tuesday night at the Northborough Town Hall Offices.

The board is discussing developing a medical marijuana zoning amendment to propose to the 2014 annual town meeting.

"On a professional basis, I am more concerned about the access to prescription narcotics at our pharmacies than this," Leahy said.

Leahy said that based on his roughly 34 to 35 years as a police officer, "my personal opinion is I don't believe that they're coming here. I've said that all along."

"What I largely base that on is given the restricted number of licenses that are available, I think you'll see it follow the same methodology that we employ with hospitals. Why are hospitals positioned where they are? In order to put themselves in a situation to attract the greatest number of patients. I really think you're going to find much the same thing here. I think these folks are going to feel that they will have a greater level of tolerance and acceptance in the cities than they will in the suburbs," he said.

Chairman Rick Leif said planning board members have discussed security needs of a dispensary,"because it's a cash business" and how "a lot of money is going to be stored on the site and brought to the site by people that want to acquire this stuff."

Leahy said that under the state guidelines, "there's a tremendous amount of security attached to this, both at the dispensary as well as any of the delivery vehicles."

"It goes beyond anything that we've seen, short of an armored car, and in some cases, it might rival that," Leahy said.

"We already have business establishments in town that deal with large sums of cash, each and every day, that have far less security than, for example, a dispensary would have. So I don;t have any strong concerns in that area."

Leif said that "one opinion that's been raised is, 'Why is this different than CVS?'"

Drug stores sell "prescription drugs that are very powerful," he said.

Another concern raised is about "the perception of what goes on" at medical marijuana dispensaries, prompting discussion of whether they require greater regulation, Leif said.

"You raised a very valid point, Rick. Because if you look at the availability of Oxycodone at CVS, for example," there's "a conventional retail level of security," Leahy replied.

"I think folks are going to be shocked when they see the required levels of security for a dispensary or a delivery vehicle. It goes way beyond what people envision."

Perception will be big "and I think town government's going to need to find a way to address that," the police chief said.

Many communities have amended their zoning to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in industrial areas, Leahy said.

The chief recommended Northborough zone them in its adult district, on Route 9. 

Leahy said that "I'll tell you sincerely: I'm not losing any sleep over this."

"Am I happy about it? Professionally, I think folks got sold something of a bill of goods in terms of the science behind it. But the information was out there. Everybody got a chance to make their case. And the voters overwhelmingly chose to go in one direction. My job is to be a public servant, not run around and impose whatever thoughts I may have personally," he said.




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