By Katina Caraganis
LUNENBURG -- The Planning Board asked Planning Director Marion Benson on Monday night to look at the town's options if a developer wants to bring a medical-marijuana dispensary into town.
Before to Monday night's meeting, Benson said the idea of having a dispensary in town has been brought up before, but it had never been discussed by the board. With two new members newly elected in April, she wanted to remind members that such proposals could come before them.
"People are looking at it," Benson said. "I just wanted you to know that you might want me to look at this, probably before the next Town Meeting. You can't say no, apparently, if a developer wants to bring it to town. One town tried it, and it was caught at the state level. I can look further into this if you're interested."
She said that, to date, there are no official proposals before the board, adding that she wanted the board to be informed on the issue and what the options are if a proposal were to come forward.
"I would be glad to look at it as far as placement is concerned and just what you would be allowed to do and not do," she said.
Vice Chairman Nathan Lockwood said he appreciated the subject being brought up and questioned where a potential project would go in town and what zone it would be allowed in.
"It would be interesting to get some clarity around this," he said. "There is definitely the idea of personal beliefs here, too.
Under state law, up to five dispensaries will be allowed in each county.
Ayer selectmen voted 3-2 last week to send a letter of support to the state on behalf of a Shirley businessman who wants to open a medical-marijuana dispensary on Central Avenue.
Ayer Town Meeting rejected a warrant article June 24 that would have placed a one-year moratorium on setting up a medical-marijuana dispensary in town.
Ayer and Lunenburg are in two different counties, and the project in Ayer would not hinder Lunenburg's chance of having a dispensary down the line.
Joanna Bilotta-Simeone, chairwoman of the Lunenburg Planning Board, said the prospect, without a specific plan in place, raises a lot of questions to be answered, including whether the marijuana could be used on the spot.
"For me, this is where personal feelings come in," she said. "For me, personally, I wouldn't necessarily want that on my main street. I don't know that they use it on the spot."
Bilotta-Simeone told Benson, "I think that would be easier if you got us information on what it looked like in a community and the goals of it. For me, there's a lot of questions that can't be answered."
Board member Toby Bakaysa questioned why the town would want to endorse an industry that sells pharmaceuticals outside of a pharmacy.
"Why would you create a whole different industry?" he said. "They could do it more reasonably at a pharmacy or something like that."
Newly elected member Damon McQuaid said the idea doesn't concern him right now, but he is hesitant about how the industry could change down the road.
"I'm more concerned about what would happen when they evolved the laws here as opposed to right now," he said. "It's obviously more strict right now."
Benson will bring her research to the board's next meeting June 22.
Follow Katina Caraganis on Twitter @kcaraganis.