Framingham officials hope to finish drafting language for a bylaw regulating medical marijuana dispensaries sometime this month, as the Town of Framingham races the calendar to get regulations in place before the businesses begin to establish themselves.
Town Manager Robert Halpin said a task force of planning, zoning and law enforcement officials has been working on language for several weeks and should have it ready to be presented to Selectmen this month and be placed on the warrant for the annual Town Meeting on April 30.
That date could be problematic, Halpin noted, because the medical marijuana law passed by voters in November gives state officials until April 1 to establish regulations for carrying out the law, including licenses for 35 not-for-profit dispensaries statewide, including at least one in each county.
"There is a concern of grandfathering," he said, with businesses able to set up shop before the town votes.
The bylaw will lay out "places in Framingham where this use would be appropriate and where it is not," explained Halpin.
Selectman Ginger Esty said she has heard from residents fearful that dispensaries and other marijuana-related businesses "will start opening up in a minute."
The new bylaw would address only dispensaries and not other aspects of the medical marijuana pipeline, which starts with doctors writing recommendations for marijuana for several illnesses and conditions.
One medical practice, CannaMed Boston, has already stated its intention to set up shop in Framingham though a spokesman recently told Framingham Patch it would not be at 945 Concord St., where it had originally hoped to open. Tenants at that office building objected to the business opening there.
Wherever it lands, that business would operate as a medical practice, Halpin said, and it would be regulated and zoned like any other medical practice.
"Right now, today, any doctor in Massachusetts can prescribe (write a recommendation for) medical marijuana," he said. "That is the only aspect of the law that is currently active and in operation."
Selectmen also pressed state lawmakers in attendance at the meeting Tuesday night to push for a delay in the implementation of the law.
"Putting it off to July just makes a lot of sense," said Selectman Jason Smith, noting that many communities hold Spring Town Meetings, where local regulations could be adopted.
"We need to make sure we get local control," added Selectman Laurie Lee.
She urged lawmakers to ensure that dispensaries are not covered under the so-called Dover Amendment, which enables some not-for-profit entities to skirt local zoning regulations.