Local leaders not so high on medical marijuana ballot question

November 15, 2012
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When faced with the all-out legalization of recreational marijuana use per a ballot question in Colorado, the Colorado governor had one of the most memorable quotes in recent history: “Don’t break out the Cheetos just yet,” he said after the question won overwhelming support in Colorado despite his opposition.

The same advice could be issued to Chelsea residents by local leaders following the overwhelming approval of medical marijuana use per a ballot question in the Nov. 6th election, as local leaders aren’t too enthusiastic about the new lax lighting up policies.

While most local leaders here were ecstatic about the liberal Democrat dominance last Tuesday, one aspect of that liberal sweep is giving them some headaches – that being the medical marijuana approval.

The approval signifies another step towards all-out legalization in the state, as it follows the decriminalization of marijuana ballot question that got approval a few years ago. The medical marijuana question calls for stores – or dispensaries – to be set up throughout the state. It also calls for sanctioned growers to start operations that would provide the marijuana to these stores. Only those who have medical approval could buy the drug at the stores, but the list of medical ailments is a long list that includes serious diseases like cancer and less-serious conditions like Glaucoma (a condition that many eye doctors say is not effectively treated by marijuana).

Already, the Chelsea City Council has called a hearing on Nov. 19th to look at crafting an ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries in Chelsea.

Council President Leo Robinson has led the effort, and said previously he would rather not see a proliferation of dispensaries start popping up all over Broadway and the other business districts.

He also said it would potentially create a huge problem for Chelsea Police in determining who can and cannot possess the still-illegal drug.

Now, City Manager Jay Ash is also voicing concerns and said he is interested in talking more about the proposed citywide ban. He said the law will go into effect way before state and City officials can get a firm idea of what it will mean to public safety, city planning and quality of life – especially in a low-income community like Chelsea.

“I am very concerned about the impact this new law could have on our community,” said Ash this week. “We are currently examining the issues to understand what State rules may apply and how we may decide to regulate it.  In this case, I think it is extremely poor public policy practice to follow the usual routine of making a law effective so soon after its passage. There are so many unknowns and questions to be answered in order to ensure that the implementation of the ballot question is done so in the most effective way possible.”

Ash said Chelsea is not alone in facing this headache.

“All of us municipal officials are really wrestling with how to do this, and we’re looking for guidance from the State that isn’t as thorough as it would typically be,” he said. “I hope the State will do something to delay the law’s implementation so that we can get a game plan together and make sure that we limit the negative impacts of the new law as much as we can.”


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