Whether or not you agree with the views of Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes about medical marijuana, it’s hard to dispute one point he makes in today’s Globe: “It’s a complicated issue.”
Nearly two-thirds of Massachusetts voters supported the ballot question that authorizes patients with a “debilitating” medical condition and certification from their doctor to buy marijuana from up to 35 dispensaries set to be opened next year. Now comes the hard work of implementing the law.
There are zoning ordinances to change to account for the siting of the centers and police policies to adjust. The Department of Public Health is charged with writing the state rules to guide the program. I write in today’s story that the department has been troubled lately by budget cuts and two major crises. It will play a big role in implementation, including determining just how much drug a patient can possess and setting operating procedures for the dispensaries.
One point not mentioned in today’s story is that the law allows for limited home-growing of the drug. Here’s what the ballot measure says:
The Department shall issue a cultivation registration to a qualifying patient whose access to a medical treatment center is limited by verified financial hardship, a physical incapacity to access reasonable transportation, or the lack of a treatment center within a reasonable distance of the patient’s residence. The Department may deny a registration based on the provision of false information by the applicant. Such registration shall allow the patient or the patient’s personal caregiver to cultivate a limited number of plants, sufficient to maintain a 60-day supply of marijuana, and shall require cultivation and storage only in an enclosed, locked facility.
The department shall issue regulations consistent with this section within 120 days of the effective date of this law. Until the department issues such final regulations, the written recommendation of a qualifying patient’s physician shall constitute a limited cultivation registration.
That’s worrying to the Small Property Owners Association, which represents people who own small rental properties in Massachusetts. The group sent a flier to lawmakers expressing various concerns—“rental properties are not greenhouses,” it said—including whether landlords could run afoul of federal law if people grow the drug in their apartments.
The federal government has moved in other states to seize properties that are home to dispensaries, and it historically has used civil asset forfeiture laws in drug cases. In Montana, where medical marijuana is legal, a property owner pleaded guilty in federal court in May to “maintaining drug-involved premises.”
The group asked for an amendment to the law allowing property owners to “opt out” of renting to people who grow marijuana. “Alternatively, the Legislature could prohibit marijuana growing entirely in residential properties,” it said.
Earlier this week, Matt Allen, director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, a group that pushed for the law, said “the people of Massachusetts have spoken.”
“We look forward to working closely with patients and the state to ensure an implementation process that will make the Massachusetts medical marijuana program the safest and most secure medical treatment program in the country,” he said.