Pubdate: Sat, 02 Mar 2013
Source: Patriot Ledger, The  (Quincy, MA)
Copyright: 2013 GateHouse Media, Inc.


In two months time, on May 1, the Department of Public Health will be 
required to hand down detailed regulations regarding the medical 
marijuana law. Included will be a determination of what constitutes a 
60-day medical marijuana supply, as well as guidelines for those 
eligible to personally grow medical marijuana and the registration of 

The regulations can't come soon enough.

With the law in effect as of January 1 and communities already in a 
dither about how to zone pot shops, it is our hope that DPH will give 
guidance to cities and towns on zoning pot shops before the May 1 
deadline. The law states that in the first year, DPH may authorize up 
to 35 dispensaries, "provided that at least one treatment center 
shall be located in each county, and not more than five shall be 
located in any one county." It places no restrictions on how many can 
be authorized after the first year.

Many Massachusetts voters view medical marijuana as an effective 
means of controlling patients' pain and symptoms from various 
illnesses. It was this compassion that helped pass the November 
ballot measure by an overwhelming majority. We do not question claims 
regarding medical marijuana's efficacy. Pain is subjective and any 
palliative course that offers comfort should be considered.

Our reticence with the legislation was and is how broadly it's 
written. Chief among our concerns is the latitude given to where 
medical marijuana dispensaries can be located. While we appreciate 
that cities and towns must follow the law when it comes to local 
zoning for pot shops in their communities, we hope that the state 
allows them to do so with eye an toward maintaining the integrity of 
our communities.

Last year, Los Angeles tried and failed to ban pot shops after 
grappling with what its city council and police said was a rise in 
crime in and around the nearly 1,000 dispensaries located within the 
city's 469 square miles. In a report on National Public Radio, City 
Councilman Jose Huizar, who wrote the ordinance, said he did it 
because some neighborhoods have two pot shops per block. A resident 
who supported the original measure that passed in 1996 said it's 
gotten out of hand. She said her city block is boxed in by them, and 
that people hang around outside the dispensaries and even her home, 
smoking pot. Worse, she lives across the street from a K  2 school.

Much of the South Shore is now considering proper zoning of pot 
dispensaries in their areas. Quincy City Council has decided to wait 
until DPH releases its regulations on May 1 before proceeding with 
any ordinance in order to be in full compliance with the law. 
Weymouth selectmen are meeting Monday to discuss the town's options, 
Pembroke has decided to delay a vote on prohibiting them outside of 
adult entertainment zones. Elsewhere, Scituate, Marshfield and 
Hingham are considering imposing moratoriums on pot shops. We commend 
them for being proactive.

Yet considering DPH is consumed with two major crises - the crime lab 
scandal and the compounding pharmacy debacle where (so far) 47 people 
have died and thousands more have been sickened, some critically 
we're concerned that the mandate for regulations required of it by 
the ballot measure will not receive the level of attention it 
deserves. We are even less optimistic that the state will be able to 
guide cities and towns now struggling with the zoning issue in 
advance of town meeting which are generally held along the South 
Shore in March and April.

We hope we are wrong.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom