Mayor questions marijuana dispensary permit
By David Taube
STAFF WRITER | November 10,2012
MONTPELIER — Mayor John Hollar said Friday he has concerns about the possibility of a medical marijuana dispensary in the city and about how the City Council became aware of the issue.
Hollar said that having a dispensary in the city could send a message to youth that it’s OK to use marijuana. He also said he felt city staff should have internally notified the City Council so elected officials could have discussed the proposal.
“I have some concern about it, to be honest, because I think it does send a message to young people that the use of marijuana is something that’s acceptable, and I think that’s not something we want to promote for our kids,” Hollar said.
A recent state law allows up to four dispensaries to operate in the state. The city of Rutland and town of Stowe have both enacted ordinances to ban the businesses.
“The statute clearly does allow for municipalities to make a determination as to whether they want to accept dispensaries in their community,” Hollar said.
“Frankly that’s something that should have been brought to the council,” said the mayor, who learned about the plan from a newspaper article. “That hasn’t happened, and so the question now is whether there is a role for us in making that judgment or whether even the council chooses to do that.”
But some City Council members reached Friday said they support the business and location, which would be near The Trading Post furniture store off River Street.
The proposed dispensary could be within the district of City Council members Alan Weiss and Angela MacDonald-Timpone.
Weiss said the proposed spot is “fairly isolated, and will not cause, if allowed, any great problem.”
MacDonald-Timpone said she’s on board for having a dispensary within the city, provided the zoning administrator signs off. She said she feels sometimes the council micromanages things.
The business, Patients First Inc., has been working to secure a spot in Waterbury Center near the Cabot Annex Store, but the dispensary has explored other sites.
The manager of the dispensary, Stacy Grabowski, a registered nurse, said the Montpelier option is a “backup.”
Legislators noted in October that the 2011 law allowing the medical marijuana dispensaries could fail to ensure notification processes, like public hearings, if a town has no zoning or if a dispensary didn’t have to request a change in use for a property.
The state’s Public Safety Department has rejected public records requests for details about the dispensaries, including information about draft applications that could shed light on the businesses.
The records have been deemed exempt from public release because of an administrative rule. When the law was drafted, the legal language was based on Maine’s law, which made applications public records, but the Public Safety Department decided to make the applications confidential.
The Montpelier permit was approved Nov. 1 by the city’s now-former planning and zoning administrator, Clancy DeSmet. A 15-day appeal period ends next week. Because the proposed use changed only from personal services to retail, it did not go before a zoning review board.
But Hollar said the decision involved more than just reviewing whether the business complies with zoning rules.
“This is actually a question for the municipality to decide,” he said. “Is this something, an activity, that we want to exist within our borders? I think that’s something that appropriately should be considered by the council.”