Towns in Massachusetts can not ban medical marijuana centers outright, but they are allowed to enact zoning regulations on where dispensaries can be located. State Attorney General Martha Coakley handed down that decision yesterday in response to a Wakefield, Mass. passing a law that prohibited marijuana centers from operating in that town.
Massachusetts voters approved medical marijuana for qualifying patients in November. The law allows patients to cultivate up to 24 plants and possess no more than four ounces of marijuana. It also allows for the state to create up to 35 licensed dispensaries. The state Department of Public Health has yet to present regulations to the state legislature to pass, but is expected to do so March 29.
In her decision, Coakley says that by banning dispensaries the towns would be thwarting the will of the voters, "The 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," Coakley wrote.
Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley.
That comes in stark contrast to laws in other states like California and Colorado, where cities are banning dispensaries outright. Colorado, for example, has granted the rights to ban medical marijuana dispensaries to all municipalities in the state and dozens have taken that route.
Predictably, not everyone is happy with the decision, including Ruth Clay, a health director for Wakefield, Reading and Melrose, Mass. - two nearby municipalities that also passed bans.
"We were never morally opposed to medical marijuana. We were very concerned about how (the ballot question) was written, with a lot of opportunity for abuse," Clay said to the Associated Press. "We were concerned about protecting the consumers, as well as protecting the community."
While the bans were overturned in Mass., Coakley did say that moratoriums would be legal and would give towns time to sort out zoning issues. Already some towns are taking that route, including Westborough, Mass. which will vote on zoning restrictions for marijuana this Saturday. The laws would put medical marijuana dispensares in the same part of town as adult entertainment. So, basically medical marijuana is equal to businesses that objectify women and serve toxic alcohol to patrons, according to Westborough officials.