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N.H. Communities Look At Zoning To Prepare For Possible Dispensaries

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DD via Flickr Creative Commons
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 As the state considers applications to run four medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, some towns and cities are preparing for the new law by updating their zoning rules.

New Hampshire’s medical marijuana law requires dispensaries be more than 1,000 feet from a school or drug free zone. But during Town Meeting on Tuesday, voters in Epping will decide whether to restrict dispensaries to industrial locations.

Earlier this year, the town council voted to do so. Epping’s town planner, Brittany Howard, says the town had originally wanted even stricter zoning that required 300-foot setback from a residential property.

“Based on what the state statute already had for setbacks and requirements from school zones and all those things, we could not place more rigid setbacks on it because the state had already determined what was required.”

At the time, Epping had learned of a group interested in using one of the buildings in town for a dispensary. But Howard says she hasn’t heard from them in months. The originally proposed ordinance would have blocked that group’s plans.

The cities of Concord, Laconia and Dover are looking to add similar zoning ordinances. A group affiliated with a dispensary operator in Maine has filed applications to operate in both Concord and Dover.

Matt Simon with the Marijuana Policy Project says in Vermont and Maine if towns had reservations about dispensaries setting up there, they quickly faded.

“The only concern that I have is accessibility for the patients. I don’t know what an industrial zone in Concord is. It would all depend on whether or not that location is somewhere that patients can get to easily, and park and get inside and that sort of thing.”

Franklin had considered changing its zoning rules but ultimately decided to table it—figuring existing rules were sufficient.

City councils in Concord and Laconia will have a chance to vote on the industrial zoning requirements Monday. Dover will take it up later this spring.

Meanwhile, the state senate will vote Thursday on a bill to allow satellite retail locations for dispensaries. Each location would require health department approval but, if the bill passes, it could mean more than just four towns will face this issue.

Before becoming a reporter for NHPR, Ryan devoted many months interning with The Exchange team, helping to produce their daily talk show. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire in Manchester with a major in Politics and Society and a minor in Communication Arts. While in school, he also interned for a DC-based think tank. His interests include science fiction and international relations. Ryan is a life-long Manchester resident.

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