Pubdate: Wed, 02 Jan 2013
Source: Portland Press Herald (ME)
Copyright: 2013 MaineToday Media, Inc.
Author: Denise Lavoie, The Associated Press


While Massachusetts Voters Have Ok'd Medical Marijuana Dispensaries,
Some Towns Want Limits.

BOSTON - Massachusetts voters may have enthusiastically approved the
legalization of medical marijuana, but that hasn't stopped communities
around the state from rushing to amend their zoning regulations to
make sure marijuana dispensaries are banned or restricted in their

Although the law allowing the use of marijuana for patients with
serious medical conditions goes into effect Jan. 1, the state
Department of Public Health has until May 1 to issue regulations on
who will run the dispensaries, who will work there and how they will
be operated. DPH must also decide what constitutes a 60-day supply
patients can receive.

While the DPH works on the regulations, some cities and towns are
working to keep out dispensaries, or "pot shops" as they are often
called. In Wakefield and Reading, the towns have already approved
zoning changes to ban dispensaries.

"People are concerned about how broad the law was written and that the
dispensaries could be used by more than just people with medical
issues," said Ruth Clay, the health director for Wakefield, Reading
and Melrose, a city that is also working to pass a ban on

Clay said her communities receive a significant amount of state and
federal grants to run substance abuse programs and are concerned that
having a marijuana dispensary in town could "send a mixed message to

The law approved through Question 3 on the November election ballot
eliminates civil and criminal penalties for the use of marijuana by
people with cancer, Parkinson's Disease, AIDS and other conditions
determined by a doctor.

Opponents have said they are concerned that the DPH will not be able
to prevent abuses of the new law. The department has faced criticism
this year for a lack of oversight at a drug-testing lab that was
closed in August after a chemist allegedly acknowledged skirting lab
protocols and faking test results. The state's pharmacy board, under
the auspices of DPH, has also come under scrutiny in a deadly fungal
meningitis outbreak linked to a steroid distributed by a compounding
pharmacy in Framingham.

The DPH says it is committed to developing a thorough set of
guidelines so that the state will not end up with problems seen in
other states, including California and Colorado, where hundreds of
dispensaries have opened and prompted complaints about misuse of
medical marijuana and increased crime.

"We have the benefit that we are not the first state doing this, there
are 17 other states that have done this, including some neighbors --
Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine -- so we don't have to do this
completely in the dark," said Dr. Lauren Smith, interim DPH

"We can look at what has worked well and what hasn't worked well in
other states and then determine what will work best here in

The new law limits the number of dispensaries to no more than 35 in
the first year, but says the DPH could allow more after 2013.

The state's legalization of medical marijuana has spawned an influx of
consultants, attorneys and medical technology companies into

Dr. Bruce Bedrick, the chief executive of MedBox Inc., opened an
office in Natick soon after the ballot question was approved. His
company offers consulting services and dispensing systems to people
interested in opening dispensaries in Massachusetts.

The company's technology requires patients to do a fingerprint scan in
order to get their doctor-prescribed quantity of marijuana.
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