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Editorial | Municipal attempts to zone out medical marijuana unjust

Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 08:11


This month’s election saw 63 percent of Massachusetts voters approve Question 3, legalizing the use of medical marijuana in the Commonwealth. A number of municipalities in the state, however, have begun to change their zoning laws to prevent the opening of new dispensaries near schools or in other public spaces. According to an article in yesterday’s Boston Globe, some local boards and town councils, including those of Reading and Wakefield, have taken this a step further by enacting bylaws that ban the establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries. 

Not only are these policies myopic, as the legal strength of their laws is questionable in the face of a widely approved state-level question, but they are also unfair to those who could benefit from medical marijuana for pain management but may not have the ability to travel great distances to obtain it.

The ballot question itself reads, “A YES VOTE would enact the proposed law eliminating state criminal and civil penalties related to the medical use of marijuana, allowing patients meeting certain conditions to obtain marijuana produced and distributed by new state-regulated centers or, in specific hardship cases, to grow marijuana for their own use.” 

The reactionary decisions from Reading and Wakefield attempt to reapply those same “civil penalties” related to the dispensaries — penalties that a majority of Massachusetts’ citizens are against.

The intent of the law is to help patients assuage pain. Wanda James, co-owner of the dispensary Simply Pure in Denver, Colo., was quoted by the Globe as saying, “It’s important for us to be able to show it’s not for kids, it’s not about being stoned, it truly is bringing help to people who are suffering from nausea ... We see a lot of cancer patients, we see a lot of end-of-life patients.”

Not all attempts to organize how the law will take effect have been as contrary to the Question’s intent. Some towns have been constructive in trying to determine how the process of medical marijuana distribution will take place. Malden and Salem both decided to allow dispensaries to operate where other medical services are located, an approach that promotes patient access and addresses the concerns of those who would attempt to eliminate access to medical cannabis outright in their townships. Changes like these are sensible approaches to accommodating the reform that received overwhelming support statewide. 

Now that the law has taken effect, it promises to receive much attention from consultants and lawyers with great amounts of experience in other states. We hope the process moving forward can be as orientated toward alleviating the pain of patients as the law is itself.

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