With Massachusetts poised to become the 18th US state to legalize medical marijuana, cannabis advocates are gearing up for a major celebration on election night.
But some local officials are already looking to crash the party, pursuing policies that would prevent medical marijuana dispensaries from opening in their towns.
Six communities – Hudson, Malden, Melrose, Reading, Saugus, and Wakefield – are reportedly trying to change zoning laws or take other measures to effectively ban cannabis centers, according to the Boston Globe.
Massachusetts voters will decide in the upcoming elections whether to legalize marijuana for medical purposes under a plan that would allow up to 35 nonprofit dispensaries to distribute cannabis. The latest polls show strong support for the legalization measure (called Question 3), indicating that the initiative will pass by a landslide.
With that as the backdrop, officials in some Massachusetts towns are concerned about the possibility of increased crime and the abuse of state MMJ laws, indicating that many people who sign up for MMJ cards will likely have no medical reason to do so. They point to other states that have legalized medical marijuana to back up their claims. The Boston Globe, for instance, quotes a health officials as saying that “the average purchaser in California is a 32-year-old white male with no other underlying medical conditions.”
However, these claims are debatable and selective. Few studies actually link medical marijuana dispensaries with increased crime, and in fact some have shown exactly the opposite. And while California might have a younger MMJ patient population, Colorado skews much higher, with an average age of 41.
The other concern among some Massachusetts officials is that the legalization measure is too vague. It doesn’t, for example, specify exactly how much marijuana a patient could possess at any given time. This is a more valid concern. As we’ve seen in California, lax MMJ laws do lead to more abuse – and, in turn, scrutiny from the government.
If a vast majority of voters pass the Massachusetts legalization measure as expected, however, it would be a very unpopular move politically for cities to start banning dispensaries. So the six cities moving in that direction now will likely be the exception, not the rule.