Weed the People

Scream On
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  December 4, 2012


Despite the Hub's cherished tradition of disparaging the Boston City Council for its weak authority, the truth is that even its laziest members hustle to improve our community. Some may threaten public education by championing charter schools, but otherwise they're generally decent servants who strive to keep Boston booming. At the body's last weekly meeting alone, councilors addressed such critical quality-of-life issues as voter accessibility and clean drinking water. There won't be any ticker-tape parades for this stuff, but it's important work, and most of the time, the council executes it efficiently.

So it should come as little surprise that Boston councilors appear to be approaching medical weed just as sensibly. At that same meeting last Wednesday, District 5 councilor Rob Consalvo called for a hearing — to take place no later than December 10 — at which stakeholders can voice ideas and pitch parameters for dispensary placement. Consalvo says he has no opinion on the merits of the new ganja law. He seems sincere in that position, and also in his comments that the primary municipal concern, and therefore the council's, is zoning.

There's a seemingly infinite number of questions that must be answered on the short road to dispensaries — how many outfits there will be; do vendors have to grow their own wares; what constitutes a 60-day supply; how much will licensing and operating fees run? Most of those decisions, though, are left to the Department of Public Health, which has until May 1, 2013 — four months after the statute passed via Question 3 goes into effect on New Year's Day — to set such measures. The only real role of towns and cities is to figure out where patients will be able to buy, or not to buy, prescription pot. Again — it's all about zoning.

Several municipalities outside of Boston have already failed that task, and neglected to follow the will of voters who backed Question 3. Savages in Wakefield and Reading banned dispensaries outright, while town meeting voters in Saugus, Melrose, and Peabody are also considering such antediluvian actions. These enclaves aren't just denying their residents access to herbal remedies; their tenuous restrictions in this matter will further impede state legislators and health department policy makers, who already face massive hurdles, from implementing smart and streamlined formalities about who can carry what and where.

Even juxtaposed with more draconian corners of the Commonwealth, it seems ridiculous to praise Boston city councilors for adhering to a binding referendum. In their case, there's an extra-stiff mandate to embrace the law responsibly, since nearly 70 percent of Boston voters pulled in favor of medical weed (as opposed to 63 percent statewide). It's also true that someone at City Hall should have thought about dispensaries ahead of time. But now that it's down to the wire, the council can hopefully count on public support from a city with more than enough scholars, legal advocates, and healthcare professionals to address medical cannabis head-on.

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  Topics: News Features , Boston City Council, Medical Marijuana, zoning,  More more >
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