Pubdate: Wed, 03 Sep 2014
Source: Patriot Ledger, The  (Quincy, MA)
Copyright: 2014 GateHouse Media, Inc.


We didn't like the idea of medical marijuana when it was proposed in
Massachusetts, and we certainly didn't like the law that won voter
approval two years ago. The shortcomings of that law have become all
too obvious and need to be addressed.

The licensing of marijuana farms and dispensaries (isn't that an
innocent sounding word?) has become a farce because of the
questionable applications and the bureaucratic ineptitude of a review
process dragging on under the direction of the state Department of
Public Health. We are not unhappy that it has taken longer than
forecast to get a marijuana industry up and running in the state, but
the entire process is becoming embarrassing.

Now we have a situation in Braintree where police watched a man get
into a car with two other men and drive to a remote area of the
parking lots at the South Shore Plaza. It is not unknown to police
that drug transactions take place at that location. After some
conversation, they arrested three men.

Officers said they found five baggies and an ounce and a half of
marijuana in the car, along with a bit of hashish, and $1,200 in the
car and in the wallet of Derick Eaton, one of the men arrested.

Eaton, however, had a Get Out of Jail card. What he actually had was a
certificate saying he was authorized because of medical necessity to
use marijuana, which means he can have it in his possession. Eaton got
his marijuana certificate from Cannamed Doctors, an establishment in
Framingham. Cannamed has four other facilities. They are all in
California, where medical marijuana has budded into a billion dollar
industry. The other two people with Eaton had medical marijuana
certificates from Cannamed Doctors, too.

The charges against Eaton were dismissed in August in Quincy District
Court. With a judge's order in hand, he proceeded to the Braintree
Police Department and announced he wanted his dope and his money back.
They said no. They further said they had a conversation with the
district attorney, who told them there was no way they were going to
give drugs back to the drug dealer. Eaton once spent two years in jail
for distributing drugs, but he says that was because of false evidence.

Eaton's case is another example of the murky, muddy and
unsatisfactory situation we are now in regarding medical marijuana. We
have the ongoing tangle over who will get licenses to grow and sell
marijuana. The bidding for those franchises, like the bidding for
casino licenses, has attracted moneyed business interests, former
politicians and some people of less than stellar reputation. They are
not fighting for these marijuana franchises for altruistic reasons.
There is big money at stake here.

Police and prosecutors, meanwhile, rightly complain that they don't
know if medical marijuana certificates are valid and what it actually
means if they are. There is also, they note, no central registry where
the cop in the car can check to see if a person with marijuana has a
legal right to possess it.

Assuming the law remains on the book and is not overtaken by a law
simply making marijuana available like alcohol, the Legislature needs
to step in to clarify the situation.

The Department of Public Health, an agency reporting to the governor,
has been left to decide many crucial aspects of the sale and use of
medical marijuana in Massachusetts. Its regulations are going to be
corrected or challenged, amended and appealed. The courts will decide
these questions if the Legislature doesn't address them, and maybe
that would be better. 
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