Grow, Gift, Repair

Medical Marijuana bans could be coming

Marybeth McCabe, a spokesperson with the state Department of Public Health, which currently operates the medical marijuana program, said as of July 31, every county has at least one registered medical marijuana dispensary (RMD) that has received a Provisional Certificate of Registration. She said 38 have received approval from DPH to begin retail sales, and at least one is open for sales in all counties except for Dukes and Nantucket. DPH will transfer the medical marijuana program to the Cannabis Control Commission, which oversees recreational marijuana, by the end of the year.

Northboro Town Administrator John W. Coderre, in an email Friday, said while the town voted against the adult-use recreational marijuana ballot question in 2016, it was legally open to medical marijuana dispensaries for years, yet received no applications. As state regulations evolved, the distinction between medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries became blurred to the point that town officials did not want to take the chance that a medical dispensary could potentially morph into a recreational operation as of right.

“The reality is that most medical dispensaries pursued licensure in anticipation of recreational marijuana becoming legal. Town meeting debated this point and felt the more conservative route made sense, pending maturity of the statewide regulatory framework,” Mr. Coderre said.

Bellingham voters supported Question 4, in 2016 which legalized adult-use recreational marijuana, but in a subsequent referendum and special town meeting earlier this year, they overwhelmingly voted to ban dispensaries, but allow marijuana cultivation in industrial zones with a special permit from the Planning Board.

“People were comfortable with the cultivation. But, we wanted to see how the dispensaries operations work in other communities,” Bellingham Town Administrator Denis Fraine said.

Ms. Laughman, the KP Law attorney, said, many communities have engaged in community host agreements and have medical marijuana establishments up and running before a ban became a possibility.

“Because most had already embraced and allowed medical to establish in the community, they weren’t interested in undoing what had been put in place,” she said.

The allowed prohibition of medical marijuana treatment centers does not sit well with the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, which represents registered medical marijuana users. Michael Latulippe, the group’s qualifying patient advisor, said the transfer of the medical marijuana program from the DPH to the CCC is not complete and any disruption to the industry “will not be tolerated.” He said he plans to take the matter up with the Attorney General’s office.