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Permitting Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

On November 6, 2012, Ballot Question 3, "An Initiative Petition for a Law for Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana" passed with a 63.3% vote and won a majority of votes in 349 of the State's 351 communities according to a briefing provided by the Dept. of Public Health Medical Marijuana Work Group. By doing so, the voters of the Commonwealth approved a law regulating the cultivation, distribution, possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes. This law required the State Department of Public Health (DPH) to issue regulations by May 2013.

On May 8, 2013 the state Public Health Council unanimously approved regulations for the medicinal use of marijuana, which became effective on May 24, 2013. These State regulations provide guidance regarding the regulation of the use of marijuana, including the use of land for Registered Medical Marijuana Dispensaries (RMDs) and related cultivation that shapes the scope of local regulations.

The most up to date information about state licensing of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries can be found on's Health and Human Services Website.

City's Land Use Regulations

City Council Petition: In response to the State's regulations, a formal consideration of the land use regulations to allow Registered Marijuana Dispensaries (RMDs) was started on August 20, 2013 when the City Council referred the petition to the Planning Board. The allowed proposed zones (by-right & by SP) for the RMDs are Business General, Manufacturing General and Institutional Medical with 300-ft buffers from residential zones (not IN-H), each other and locations where children congregate (schools, licensed daycares, parks/playgrounds and libraries).

  • RMD Definition: Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (a.k.a. RMD) is defined as a not-for-profit entity registered under 105 CMR 725.100, to be known as a registered marijuana dispensary (RMD), that acquires, cultivates, possesses, processes (including development of related products such as edible MIPs, tinctures, aerosols, oils or ointments), transfers, transports, sells, distributes, dispenses or administers marijuana, products containing marijuana, related supplies or educational materials to registered, qualifying patients or their personal caregivers. Unless otherwise specified, RMD refers to the site(s) of dispensing, cultivation and preparation of marijuana.

Planning Board Recommendation: On September 4, 2013, the Planning Board recommended approval of the Zoning Ordinance amendment relative to Medical Marijuana (with a recommended amendment by 2 of the 4 members to allow dispensaries in the Manufacturing Limited Zones as well). On September 17, 2013, the petition was referred to the City Council's Economic Development Committee.

Economic Development Committee Recommendation: The Economic Development Committee considered the petition on November 19, 2013 and recommended approval of the petition (on a 2-1 vote) with an amendment that included Manufacturing, Limited Zoning District (by-right for dispensaries and cultivation, unless within 300-ft of a residential zone - then dispensaries by-right & cultivation not allowed). The City Council voted to advertise the petition the same night.

On December 3, 2013, Worcester City Council ordained the petition, as amended, into law.

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