Pubdate: Tue, 01 Jan 2013
Source: Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA)
Copyright: 2013 Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Note: Rarely prints LTEs from outside circulation area - requires 
'Letter to the Editor' in subject
Author: George Barnes, Telegram & Gazette Staff


Marijuana Plans On The Docket

GARDNER - Trash pickup and annual inspections are probably higher on
his list of priorities, but Health Director Bernard Sullivan said he
and other city officials are also beginning to look at how the Chair
City will address medical marijuana.

Mr. Sullivan said he and City Solicitor John Flick plan to address the
issue Wednesday at a private meeting with Heywood Hospital doctors. He
said he also plans to address it with the Greater Gardner Chamber of
Commerce, but right now he does not have a lot to say. The law takes
effect after the start of the new year, but the state Department of
Public Health has not yet created any regulations.

In November, voters overwhelmingly supported the legalization of
marijuana for specific medical purposes. Mr. Sullivan said the local
doctors are interested in how the city will address the issue, which
will likely directly affect them. He said that although some
communities are looking for ways to keep marijuana distribution
facilities from their cities and towns that will not be his approach.

"I am not necessarily interested in banning facilities from the
community, but to make sure regulations are carefully thought out and
located appropriately and run with appropriate restraint and
responsibility," he said.

Mr. Sullivan said one thing he has learned that the medical staff may
find surprising is that Massachusetts doctors already are allowed to
write prescriptions for people to purchase medical marijuana, but only
for those who have been registered in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island approved medical marijuana in 2009.

Mr. Sullivan said the biggest hurdle he sees involves public safety.
He said there is no good test to determine if a person is driving
under the influence of marijuana. He said blood tests could be
misleading for cancer patients because if they use the drug much, it
could build up in their blood.

City Planning Director Robert L. Hubbard said he is unable to attend
the hospital meeting, but the Planning Board has already held
preliminary discussions about the medical marijuana issue. He said it
tabled further discussion until regulations are created by the state.

The Planning Board would likely look to create new zoning regulations
to address siting of marijuana dispensaries. Mr. Hubbard said with
limited dispensaries being allowed by the state, he is not sure any
will look to open in Gardner. The new regulations would be in place if
a request did come in for approval.

As of Jan 1, Mr. Hubbard said someone could walk into a medical office
and request a prescription. He does not believe doctors have to issue
the prescription.

Mr. Sullivan said the state Department of Public Health may not have
regulations in place until the spring. Until then the city will not be
able to take much action on the issue. 
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