Local municipalities are still scrambling to adjust to the Commonwealth’s new medical marijuana law that was passed by the voters last November. The law, scheduled to be implemented by May 1 has numerous loopholes and vague language that has left many city and town officials questioning how to implement this program. One of the questions that remains to be answered is how much marijuana constitutes a “60 day supply” (as allowable in the new law).
The State Department of Public Health (DPH), responsible for oversight of the law’s implementation, plans to offer final rules by May 24, supposedly to provide definitive interpretation of the law and close the loopholes. In the absence of this guidance, towns are taking matters into their own hands. Wakefield, Burlington, Melrose, Peabody and Reading have all enacted bans on the opening of any marijuana dispensaries within their city limits for up to 17 months.
State Attorney General Martha Coakley struck down Wakefield’s moratorium on March 19, stating that it was in violation of the state law. This now raises the question of whether the other towns’ moratoriums will be upheld or struck down as well. Wakefield town leaders plan to appeal this decision.
On Friday the DPH released a draft of these eagerly awaited regulations and clearly stated that no marijuana dispensaries will be allowed to open until the final regulations are in place. This will, in all likelihood delay implementation of the program as there are already many strong arguments and questions from both sides.
The actions against implementation of the medical marijuana law appear to be efforts to keep the drug out of the hands of “unauthorized people”. Considerable information exists from implementation of similar laws in other states that show that the laws have been used as de facto legalization of marijuana programs, rather than pain management programs, as they have been positioned.