NA Town Hall

North Attleboro Town Hall. (Staff file photo by Mark Stockwell)

NORTH ATTLEBORO - New town regulations grant more local protection if North Attleboro approves a medical marijuana dispensary anytime soon, the board of health says - and they're the first of their kind in area towns.

"The state law is already pretty comprehensive," Health Director Bob Davis said. "But this regulation is about the additional protection we thought North Attleboro needs."

The 16-page regulation requires licensure of dispensaries by the board of health before operation. A qualifying dispensary must be certified by the state health department and must have a permanent location in compliance with town zoning requirements.

Prospective dispensaries must also submit plans for safe handling, disposal and sales of medical marijuana. Detailed plans for home deliveries and marijuana-infused products are also required for the board's review.

Under the new regulation, the board has the right to conduct unannounced inspections of any dispensary and holds full power over licensure. Businesses who violate regulations face a $300 fine and revocation of their license for 12 months.

The board is also setting limits on operation.

Dispensaries are restricted to operating hours between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. They can't sell any products other than marijuana or marijuana-infused products - including alcohol, tobacco or gaming activities, such as lottery tickets.

And, dispensaries cannot promote the recreational use of marijuana in any way.

The regulations also require dispensary employees to become licensed by the town.

All licenses must be renewed annually.

For example, state law says dispensaries must serve citizens who are unable to access the site due to a disability or transportation. But the law failed to provide guidelines for home deliveries.

Local regulations say dispensaries must deliver directly to a customer's door - including upper or lower level apartments - so packages aren't left in foyers or on the street.

It also says a dispensary must host an annual community meeting so residents can discuss the operation's practices and policies.

Lately, town officials have been considering medical marijuana sites in town.

Although they are more hesitant to allow dispensaries in town, officials have been considering a cultivation facility, which would allow for the production of cannabis products, in the town's industrial park.

Facing few outlets that would allow such a facility, the planning board is considering a proposal to reduce the buffer zone that prohibits any medical marijuana sites within 500 feet of places where children gather.

The proposal is expected to come before town meeting this fall.

Davis said the board started looking at expanded regulations in December 2012 soon after medical marijuana use was passed into law by ballot. No other area towns have similar regulations in place, so they looked to Boston and Needham as a model for regulations.

After refining eight drafts, they are finally satisfied with the standards that will go in place.

"I'm pleased that we were able to do it as thoroughly as we did," Davis said. "It's long, but it's well covered. We vetted it for so long and I'm pleased it's in the version it's in right now. I think it's fair to everyone involved."

KAYLA CANNE can be reached at 508-236-0336, at kcanne@thesunchronicle.com and on Twitter @SCNAttleboro.

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