As soon as Question 3 became law January 1 (and likely before), towns opposed to the medical marijuana law were busy scheming on how they could stop the move of medical pot into their town. Several banned dispensaries outright. But this week those towns got the bad news from Attorney General Martha Coakley—that an all-out ban on dispensaries is not permissible.
According to the Boston Herald, Coakley was specifically speaking to a ban in Wakefield, though other towns who have passed similar bans will likely follow suit in overturning them.
“The (law’s) legislative purpose could not be served if a municipality could prohibit treatment centers within its borders, for if one municipality could do so, presumably all could do so,” wrote Coakley.
Question 3 legalized medicinal marijuana in Massachusetts for people with chronic and debilitating conditions including AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and more. Once the program is up and running, there will be as many as 35 dispensaries around the state and patients will be able to receive a 60 day supply of marijuana. With citywide bans in place, however, patients wouldn’t have access to their medicine.
While stating towns couldn’t ban the dispensaries they could place a temporary moratorium on them, stalling them, in effect. This means that towns could place a moratorium on the dispensaries for several years as they plan and research zoning options and the effects the dispensaries will have. So long as the set ordinances or the moratorium itself doesn’t hinder the eventual access to medicinal marijuana for patients.
Currently, the Department of Health is ironing out the details of Question 3 implementation. They have said they will release their proposed regulations on March 29, hold public hearings in April, and vote on May 8 to approve them.
In what seems like a never-ending timeline, the DPH has until one year after the law was passed (Jan. ’14) to issue registrations to dispensaries and another 3 months after that to approve of the opening of such businesses. In other words, we aren’t likely to see any dispensaries until spring of next year.
While the passage of Question 3 is worthy of celebration, there are several hurdles to overcome as we watch how officials handle the actual implementation, including issues of legal drug intoxication levels if accused of driving under the influence of marijuana. Until then, access to legal medical marijuana remains in limbo in Massachusetts for everyone.
If you are charged with a criminal marijuana offense or OUI charge, contact our offices today. An arrest doesn’t always mean a conviction; let us help you analyze your legal options and determine your best course of action.