As a tool for change, ballot questions like the one approving the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in Massachusetts are blunt instruments. The questions are generally written in such a way that they take on the larger question — whether medical marijuana should be legal — without adequately addressing smaller details such as how the drug would be administered, by whom and where.
The Massachusetts Municipal Association, which represents cities and towns across the state, is 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 law 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. 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 legislation approved by voters last month, the rules are supposed to be in place by April.
Local officials, including those in Peabody, Danvers and Salem, have already begun grappling with the question of where to put the dispensaries in their communities; Peabody may attempt to ban them outright.
Such a move may backfire on Peabody. Not only would an outright ban likely face an expensive legal challenge, it would also be a slap in the face of the more than 14,000 city residents who voted in favor of medical marijuana (the measure passed 57 percent to 43 percent in the Tanner City).