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Massachusetts Attorney General Says Towns Can’t Ban Medical Marijuana

Cannabis States

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has changed her mind about marijuana dispensaries. She now says that if a medical marijuana dispensary has already opened in a community, that community may not ban them. An earlier ruling indicated that bans could take place if the dispensaries were already serving patients.

Approvals were initially granted in Bellingham and Northborough banning recreational and new medical marijuana dispensaries by the head of the Municipal Law Unit Margaret Hurley, according to Commonwealth Magazine. When the law was rewritten last year, some towns thought they could ban medical and recreational marijuana sales. At first, the Attorney General’s office agreed.

Margaret Quackenbush, spokeswoman for AG Healey, said, “The Attorney General’s Office is committed to ensuring that the marijuana legalization law is implemented as quickly and safely as possible. After further review, we have determined that under the statute, towns are not permitted to enact bans on medical marijuana establishments.”

The new order, however, was issued after reconsideration.

Hurley said, “Upon further review, we now determine that this approval was given in error. As explained in our decision in the Wakefield case…such a ban would frustrate the purpose of [the medical marijuana law] to allow qualifying patients who have been diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions reasonable access to medical marijuana treatment centers. [The law’s] legislative purpose could not be served if a municipality could prohibit treatment centers within its borders, for if one municipality could do so, presumably all could do so.”

Northborough received a similar notice.

Attorney Adam Fine said, “Any town that now wants to issue a bylaw presumably can. We already opened the doorway too much. There is a reluctance by the Legislature to constrain the cities and towns in any way. How much deference should be given? I think we’ve given too much deference already.”

Some say that the rewriting of the law has made it confusing for municipalities and marijuana businesses. Medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed to make recreational marijuana sales as long as they get the required approvals from the state. Some also fear that combining the two sectors of the industry may put the medical marijuana industry in jeopardy.