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Worcester Officials Call for Local Controls With Medical Marijuana

Thursday, February 14, 2013

 

Officials from the Worcester Division of Public Health (WDPH) asked the state's Department of Public Health (DPH) to give local authorities the ability to institute local bylaws and regulations in relation to the Commonwealth's new medical marijuana law.

WDPH Director Derek Brindisi and Acting Commissioner Dr. Michael Hirsh both offered testimony during a 3-hour, standing room only, DPH "listening session" at the Worcester Public Library Wednesday afternoon, the first of three such meetings to be held across the Bay State as officials work to develop regulations for the implementation of the voter-approved medical marijuana by May 1 of this year.

Brindisi said that Worcester was specifically requesting that the DPH recognize and explicitly state that municipalities and local boards of health can impose their own local bylaws and regulations under the statewide regulations. He also said that the WDPH has serious concerns about marijuana edibles and requested that they be regulated on either the state or local level.

John Kelly, commissioner of Worcester's Inspectional Services, asked that the state DPH explicitly recognize the rights of municipalities to regulate the siting and zoning of medical marijuana dispensaries within their local borders.

Dr. Hirsh said that there have been strong concerns within the medical community about prescribing marijuana without any testing to determine appropriate dosages, with cannabis not having gone through the types of trials and testing other prescription drugs are subject to.

District 2 City Councilor Philip Palmieri was also in attendance and offered testimony, saying, "One of the other fundamental issues [of the medical marijuana law] is 'where.'"

He noted that a number of communities in the Commonwealth are seeking to restrict the siting of medical marijuana dispensaries within their borders due to perceived public safety or public health risks.

"Those ideologues are misdirected," Palmieri said, adding that the patients who need medical marijuana in order to be well often get lost in the discussion about how the new law will be implemented.

Councilor-At-Large Konstantina Lukes, who has put forth several orders with the City Council to restrict or delay the siting of any dispensaries in Worcester, attended the listening session as well.

In addition to the conflict between state and federal law posed by medical marijuana, Lukes said the state is trying to set up an infrastructure in just a few months that would be in competition with a long-established and successful growing and distribution system for illegal marijuana that has been in place for decades.

Irene Chiarvalloti, chair of the Worcester Property Owners Association, said landlords could find themselves in a difficult position under the new medical marijuana law. Property owners can be held responsible for drug-related activity on their property, regardless of it the drugs are medically prescribed, up to and including losing the property itself. At the same time, landlords cannot discriminate against medical marijuana patients who are seeking housing.

"We're in a Catch-22," said Chiarvalloti.

 

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