Pittsford wont ban marijuana dispensaries
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | December 08,2012
PITTSFORD — The Select Board decided not to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in town this week, but officials said that’s not quite the same as approving them.
“It’s a fine line between the two,” Selectman Hank Pelkey, the board chairman, said Friday. “It can be construed that way but at this point we voted to not (create) an ordinance to prohibit them.”
The initial motion at the meeting Wednesday, made by Selectman Alan Hitchcock, sought to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries in the town.
Hitchcock and Selectman Joe Gagnon voted in favor of the motion, while Pelkey, Selectman Tom Hooker and Selectwoman Jane Cornell voted against it.
The town first heard about the proposal for a dispensary from Alexandra Ford, who heads Rutland County Organics, a nonprofit corporation certified to set one of the four dispensaries in Vermont.
According to Town Manager John Haverstock, Ford said she would follow the will of the Pittsford board. Haverstock said that during the several weeks the Select Board deliberated on the issue, Ford informed him that the location she was looking at in Pittsford fell through and she would look at other surrounding host towns.
He said the board still needed to make a decision in case any future applicants try to locate a dispensary in town.
“I am certainly not against (dispensaries), maybe even in favor,” Pelkey said during the discussion Wednesday. “It offers another option for people who needed it. I don’t think we should cut them off.”
Gagnon said he has received a lot of input from residents and not one was positive about hosting a marijuana dispensary.
“Personally, I see it as a possibility to have more police trouble,” he said before the board’s vote. “It’s not that I am against marijuana.”
Sen. Margaret “Peg” Flory, R-Rutland, told town officials that it was still illegal to possess marijuana under federal law, but medical marijuana users cannot be prosecuted under Vermont state law. She said, though, the process is tightly regulated by the state Department of Public Safety.
“It’s very strict for anyone that wants to use marijuana for symptom relief,” she told the board.
Under Vermont’s law, Flory said, those who seek to use marijuana for medical reasons must get a recommendation from a physician they have worked with for at least six months. After that, they must apply to join the state’s medical marijuana registry.
“They have to get it somewhere. They can grow it or get it on the street,” Flory said. “That is why we created dispensaries, so they are not putting money in a drug dealer’s hand.”
She added that the law allows communities to ban the dispensaries, as Rutland City recently did.
The state has approved four dispensaries. So far, one in Burlington and one in Waterbury have been approved.
Pelkey said the Pittsford board will address any future applications as they come forward.
“At this point, we have voted to not prohibit dispensaries,” he said. “The board will take action if they come before us (again).”