The question of zoning and public consumption of medical marijuana may be delayed, as officials are talking about putting a warrant article before Town Meeting which would put the question off for nine months to a year.
Members of the Board of Health spoke to the Selectmen at last night's meeting, discussing some of the complications they are finding with the medical marijuana.
In the November election, a question allowing for medical marijuana dispensaries to be set up in Mass. was approved. This law is set to go into effect within the month.
However, Selectman Dan Matthews commented that the outlined law "presents a number of ambiguities, policy issues, and questions" on how to apply it at a town government level.
“We believe the voters have spoken, and this is going to happen in the state.” Dr. Jane Fogg, a member of the Needham Board of Health, said that--despite that--many health officials have "been suffering from lack of direction from Mass. Department of Pub Health."
Fogg, who is a physician associated with Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, added that some more guidance is coming, but it may be "a little premature" to start discussing zoning.
She echoed statements she and her colleagues made prior to the vote, saying, "We as physicians don’t believe this is the right way to prescribe it. I wish the FDA would take it on, and I wish I could send you to a pharmacy to pick it up. But, this is the way we have to do it."
The moratorium would have to be approved by Town Meeting, as would another article increasing the fine for public consumption from $100 to $200.
Said Fogg, "It's fairly simple: we don’t allow people to drink beer on the street, we don’t think they should smoke marijuana on the street."
The increased fine, they believe, would discourage people from smoking in public. Board of Health member Ed Cosgrove said the town should treat smoking marijuana in public similarly to smoking tobacco in public.
"The ingredients in smoke--whether it’s from marijuana, banana peels or tobacco--are carcinogenic," he added.
The moratorium piece would need to be written up, and both need to be submitted to the Town Meeting warrant before they can be voted in the spring town meeting.
Before the November vote, several Needham Health officials spoke out against the medical marijuana initiative. Gov. Patrick said he would likely vote against the ballot question. In October, Needham and Newton were considered for Locations of Medical Marijuana 'Consultation Centers', but were ultimately passed over.
What do you think? Should the town wait for more guidance from the MassDPH, or should decisions start sooner?