, Gloucester, MA

November 25, 2012

Editorial: City, town officials must discuss med pot 'dispensaries'

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — Now that the possession and use of marijuna for medicinal purposes has been given an emphatic approval by voters — including those in all four Cape Ann communities — local and state officials who almost universally opposed it are understandably grappling with how to implement.

But while state lawmakers say it will have to undergo some revision — and it no doubt will to meet legal muster — they must also realize they simply cannot weed out, so to speak, the intent or spirit of the measure that drew wide voter support. That should mean that at least one or up to five medical marijuana “dispensaries” must be made available for consumers in each county.

Given its size and population, Essex County could well be pegged to handle five such outlets – and, if this is the way we’re headed, one should indeed be somewhere on Cape Ann, lest residents here be forced to travel to places like Beverly or Lynn to essentially get their prescriptions filled for a treatment that’s now been rendered legal.

With that in mind, Peabody mayor Ted Bettencourt said last week that he will will seek to outlaw “medical marijuana treatment shops” in his city, and will bring a proposal to Peabody’s City Council Tuesday night. And in nearby Danvers, Selectman Dan Bennett — guessing that a community would have legal difficulty banning dispensaries altogether — is urging his fellow board members to start planning for the possibility that a dispensary will open in Danvers, while the town’s attorneys are now looking into the town’s options.

Given these scenarios, it’s vital for municipal officials across Cape Ann, and especially in Gloucester, to start making their own plans for how to address this issue as well.

Since marijuana would only be legal for those carryiung prescriptions, should it be dispensed from existing pharmacies? What would Gloucester do if a current pharmacy sought to be Cape Ann’s licensed dispensary?

Could the location of any dispensary be regulated by zoning? Should the city’s Health Departent have a role? And would the city – or a town – have any monitoring access, or responsibility?

Those are all questions local officials will need to address in the months ahead. And, as we’re seeing in Danvers and Peabody, the time to start discussing them is now.