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Quincy councilors seek 9-month delay for medical-marijuana law

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 11, 2012 02:11 PM

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Quincy city councilors are asking state legislators for a nine-month stay of the new law allowing medical marijuana dispensaries, in order to put regulations in place for where those facilities could go.

Currently, the new law, which will take effect on Jan. 1, is very vague and liberal, said state Senator John Keenan, who spoke to Quincy officials during their meeting on Monday night.

“For the first 120 days [of this new law] you’re looking at the Wild Wild West,” Keenan said.

According to Keenan, the Department of Public Health will have 120 days of the law taking effect to create regulations around the centers.

In the meantime, people will be able to obtain identification cards with little difficulty, without an in-person doctor’s visit, and even from physicians out of state. The document can then allow this person to possess and grow marijuana.

Additionally, there are practically no restrictions for people that can open medical marijuana distribution centers, and there are no restrictions on where those facilities should or could go.

The ID cards themselves are not required to have pictures or expiration dates, meaning a person could obtain one and pass it around among family or friends indefinitely.

“There’s so many loopholes it’s difficult to determine how it will be implemented,” Keenan said.

Keenan said the Legislature is working on a six-month stay of the new law to detangle the regulations at the state-level and possibly put more restrictions on the law.

Yet because the Legislature is in informal session, a stay would have to be passed in both the House and the Senate without objection.

To aid in that process, Quincy officials unanimously agreed to send a letter to Keenan to be shared with the Legislature, asking for an even lengthier postponement of the law.

Simultaneously, the city is looking to enact regulations of its own, either by banning dispensaries in the city altogether or limiting where they might be.

“My inclination would be to ban it, but I don’t want to put the city in any sort of legal bind,” said Councilor Doug Gutro, who also suggested reasonable regulations if an outright ban were overturned.

Keenan said the city should expect an outright ban – which has already been done in Wakefield and is being contemplated in Danvers, Melrose, and Peabody – to be legally challenged.

Still, because marijuana is still an illegal controlled substance at the federal level, Keenan was unsure where any legal challenge of a ban may end up.

No matter what occurs, however, councilors agreed that something needed to be done, and quickly.

“These dispensaries are coming, five to a county, you can bank that one will come to Quincy,” Councilor Brian Palmucci said. “We as a community need to figure out how to regulate it.”

Councilors adopted a finding of fact from the public hearing on the dispensaries that detailed how these dispensaries brought blight and crime, and lowered property values. The finding was accepted 7 to 1.

The council will revisit the topic in January after the Planning Board makes a recommendation to the council.

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