Massachusetts: AG Says Towns Cannot Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
By Steve Elliott
Towns and cities in Massachusetts cannot elect total bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, the office of state Attorney General Martha Coakley said on Wednesday.
The decision, released in a response to the town of Wakefield passing a bylaw banning dispensaries, said such bans would "frustate the purpose" of the medical marijuana law voters overwhelmingly approved on the November ballot, with 63 percent voting yes.
The law's legislative purpose "could not be served if a municipality could prohibit treatment centers within its borders, for if one municipality could so so, presumably all could do so," reads the decision, written by Assistant Attorney General Margaret Hurley, director of the Municipal Law Unit.
Cities are, however, allowed to regulate dispensaries through zoning bylaws, according to Hurley.
In a separate decision, responding to a bylaw passed by the town of Burlington, Hurley said towns can adopt temporary moratoriums on marijuana dispensaries.
Marijuana dispensaries wouldn't be "in keeping with the vision" for the communities of Wakefield, Reading and Melrose, according to Ruth Clay, health director for the three municipalities, although she claimed she and other local officials weren't "morally opposed" to medicinal cannabis.
Clay claimed that the communities have a "strong focus on substance abuse prevention" through the use of federal Drug Free Communities grants, and she claimed community members are concerned youth marijuana use will increase if dispensaries open there.
(Photo of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley: Defense by Following the Law)