Westborough selectmen approve delay of medical marijuana law
By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – Although the state’s voters approved a ballot question in November that would allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, many municipal officials believe there is still a lot of ambiguity regarding the exact details of how that ruling will be implemented. The Westborough Board of Selectmen and Planning Board are among those officials. As a result, the selectmen approved at its Dec. 17 meeting a measure to delay the implementation of this new law for at least six months.
As the law is currently written, some portions of it go into effect Jan. 1. Other parts are not as clear – but they must be in place by April 1. The Massachusetts Municipal Association is advocating in extending that date to July 1.
Lester Hensley, the chair of the Planning Board, spoke at the selectmen’s meeting in favor of requesting a delay in the implementation.
The Planning Board is following a ‘precautionary principle’ approach on this issue,” he said, “which provides a guideline for making public policy in situations where there is no consensus on the evidence on either side of the issue.”
As 63 percent of the voters approved the article, it was the ‘will of the people,’” he said. But it was “a reasonable working assumption,” he added, that the voters assumed that public health and safety would “not be adversely affected” by the passage of the article.
The proposed law, as currently written, “reveals numerous undefined aspects that do not make for a well-constructed public policy,” he said.
Part of the problem was, Hensley noted, that it is up to the state’s Department of Public Health to determine more specific guidelines. But that agency has been “burdened” as of late with the State Crime Lab problems as well as the investigation into the New England Compounding Center. As such, the DPH does not have the necessary funds or manpower at this time to fully analyze this matter.
Guidelines need to be established, Hensley said, as to what types of illnesses and conditions would fall into the criteria for allowing medical marijuana as a form of pain management.
“Do I believe that medical marijuana can be delivered to people who need it? I do but not the way the law is currently written,” he added.
Various law enforcements agencies have also joined the MMA in urging for the delay, he noted.
Several Mass. communities have also taken the action of banning dispensaries from their communities although those measures may end up being challenged as unlawful.
Leigh Emery, the chair of the selectmen, noted that as a nurse practitioner for many years, she had seen many patients who would have benefited from this law.
“I’m very supportive of this law if it’s in a very regulated way,” she added.
Selectman George Barrette said sending a letter to the town’s state legislators was a prudent measure.
“There’s no downsize to delaying it,” he added. “The delay is in everyone’s best interest.”
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