There is no doubt a lot of work ahead for state lawmakers and local officials who will be grappling with how to implement the new medical marijuana law that drew overwhelming voter approval across Cape Ann and across the state in November.
To that end, the Massachusetts Municipal Association — essentially a lobbying coalition of city and town officials — makes a good case in calling for a six-month delay in the law to give state and local governments a chance to develop a fair, clear and coordinated set of rules. Given the details still to be worked out, extending the deadline by a half year seems like a good idea. Delaying implementation any longer, however, would usurp the will of the voters.
The primary issue to be ironed out centers on how and where medical marijuana will be managed and distributed.
The law, as approved by voters, calls for as many as 35 marijuana dispensaries to be set up next year, with at least one but no more than five in each county, including Essex. The state Department of Public Health will be in charge of regulating medical marijuana and deciding on such details as how the dispensaries will operate, how much pot they can dispense and where the drug will come from. Under the voters’ legislation, the rules are supposed to be in place by April.
To that end, municipal, health and law enforcement officials — in all Cape Ann’s communities — have at least begun discussing the placement or handling of any “dispensaries.” Down the line, leaders in Peabody, Danvers and Salem have already begun grappling with the question of where to put the dispensaries within their community zoning system.
Peabody, in fact, may attempt to ban them outright. But not only would an outright ban likely face an expensive legal challenge, it would also be a slap in the face to the more than 14,000 city residents who voted in favor of medical marijuana accessibility, and that’s a dilemma cities and towns across the state will likely face as well.