By / September 13, 2018

Medical marijuana ban reversed by Attorney General Healey

In a turnaround, marijuana businesses in the state of Massachusetts have one less problem to mull over. State Attorney Maura Healey no longer allows municipalities to outlaw medical marijuana dispensaries.

In 2012, then-Attorney General Martha Coakley determined that cities and towns have no power to prohibit. This was also around the same time that medical marijuana was first legalized, making Massachusetts the 18th state to do so.

According to Healey’s office, the law allows a ban on dispensaries for medical and recreational marijuana.

The initial ban

The decision came months ago, with Healey believing that municipalities need time to set rules for marijuana.

According to Healey’s spokeswoman Margaret Quackenbush, “Certain communities have a need for additional time to implement recreational marijuana licensing, sales, and facilities. Regulatory activity by the Cannabis Control Commission are consistent with state law,” as per The Boston Globe.

However, as the agency released regulations on March 15, Quackenbush gave no response to which commission pushed the freeze.

Marijuana advocates and businesses alike then denounced this move.

marijuana dispensary colorado
Marijuana dispensaries, such as this one pictured in Colorado, outlawed in the state of Massachusetts. That could change soon thanks to the reversal of a decision made by State Attorney Maura Healey. (Photo by O’Dea via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0.)

$2 billion cannabis industry

According to a statement by the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association, “This could threaten Massachusetts’ $2 billion cannabis industry, subverting the will of the people who voted for legalization. Should it stand, this will give municipalities longer than the state’s cannabis commission had to develop its regulations.”

The Massachusetts Municipal Association defended Healey’s decision, saying that it’s “entirely reasonable and necessary.” Despite this, lawyers from several firms still denounced the decision, stating that extended moratoriums are illegal. They also argued that delays would push cannabis operators to look for a better condition elsewhere.

Mansfield residents voted in favor of the legalization of marijuana two years ago in 2016, and the lawyers said these delays would also take away the resident’s rights in “Yes-on-4” municipalities to do so.

The recent reversal

A sea change came a few months later, however, with Healey reversing her office’s previous decision.

“The Attorney General’s Office ensures that they implement marijuana legalization quickly and safely,” says Quackenbush in a new statement. “After further review, we determine that towns may not enact bans on medical marijuana establishments.”

As per Commonwealth magazine, the ruling came after two Massachusetts’s municipalities voted to ban pot shops. However, a letter addressed to Northborough’s town officials illustrated her new decision. She said that local authorities “should strongly consider not enforcing the ban.”

In 2012, when Massachusetts first legalized medical marijuana, state regulators clarified that municipalities have no power to ban dispensaries. This changed, however, when new regulations updated the state’s protocols on medical marijuana.

medical marijuana
In 2012, when Massachusetts first legalized medical marijuana, (Source)

Medical marijuana law

However, after noting that the restrictions in the two municipalities above would suppress access to marijuana, Healey clarified that the state’s original regulations for marijuana would still apply to the state.

According to Margaret Hurley, the head of the Attorney General’s municipal law unit, “Upon further review, we determine that this approval was an error,”. Adding that such a decision would frustrate  medical marijuana law giving qualifying patients access to the drug. “[The law’s] could not serve its purpose if a municipality could prohibit treatment centers within its borders, for if one municipality could do so, presumably all could do so.”

As legal barriers preventing marijuana from showing its potential are falling, this may prove to be the best decision.

(Featured Image by ben o’bro)

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