February 26, 2018

Worcester seeks to restrict retail marijuana locations

WBJ File
City officials are looking to restrict retail marijuana locations and limit their hours of operation.

Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus is proposing zoning amendments for the budding legal marijuana industry to facilitate the opening of 15 retail marijuana stores, but also address a loophole allowing onsite consumption of marijuana at private clubs.

No such establishment, either a grow site or retail-only location, will be allowed to open in a residential district, per the proposal the City Council is expected to review Tuesday.

In the districts where the use is allowed, companies must first obtain a special permit from the Planning Board, and any facility must be at least 500 feet away from a school, daycare center, public library, public park or playground, according to Augustus' proposal.

Further, no retail marijuana store can be located within 500 feet of another.

Cultivation and product manufacturing is allowed only in the city's manufacturing districts and the airport district. Research labs and testing facilities are allowed in five of seven business districts, manufacturing districts. Retail stores are allowed in all manufacturing districts and the same business districts that allow research labs and testing facilities. A marijuana transportation facility is allowed in only manufacturing districts, and a micro-business is allowed in manufacturing districts and the airport district.

Private clubs are allowed in manufacturing districts and the same five business districts as the other marijuana uses.

In a letter to the City Council, Augustus made reference to a loophole in the state's current marijuana regulations that appears to allow the on-site consumption of cannabis at private clubs.

The Summit Lounge, a private club on Water Street, opened earlier this month allowing members to consume cannabis inside, but city officials said they weren't aware of the true nature of the club.

Any social club would be required to obtain a special permit from the Planning Board, just like any other marijuana business.

Also included in the regulations for each business are measures to control odor, ensure the facility is secure, and limit the hours of operations.

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