The new edition of the Massachusetts Legislature was sworn in Wednesday, and its agenda in the days ahead will likely be a lively one, between new concerns over budgeting, revenue streams, local aid issues and other bills awaiting renewed action.
But there’s one item that should be at the top of lawmakers’ dance cards — and it shouldn’t take months of dancing around it either. It’s the expected tweaking and implementation of the new medical marijuana law that gained voters’ overwhelming approval at the polls in November.
The fact that medicinal marijuana gained the roaring approval of voters in every Massachusetts community except Lawrence speaks to the level of support it has. And while that goes against the grain of public safety officials — and frankly, against our endorsement, as well — this is a time when lawmakers need to recognize the will of the voters and give it their priority.
Despite the referendum’s broad approval, there is much work to be done — largely in determining how and from where the now-legal marijuana, with valid prescriptions, will be distributed. The referendum calls for 35 such “dispensaries,” with at least one and no more than five in each county. Yet some communities — notably Peabody and Danvers — are already digging in their heels against the siting of any such facilities there, while most other cities and towns, including Salem, are waiting for lawmakers and the Department of Public Health to do their work.
It has been noted previously that the ideal medical marijuana “dispensaries” would seem to be existing pharmacies, given that they already have security systems in place for dispensing and controlling all sorts of prescriptions as it is. But do the pharmaceutical shops want that responsibility? Should cities and towns set up specific zoning geared toward pot dispensaries? Should the state hold the licensing cards when it comes to citing and regulating such shops?
All of those are valid questions that need answers before this new voters’ “law” can truly be implemented. And voters who so loudly gave it their approval should not be put on hold by lawmakers they also chose to carry out their wishes.
The new Legislature should put this law on the fast track — starting today.