A new law legalizing the sale of medical marijuana in Massachusetts will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. The law will allow 35 marijuana dispensaries to be opened in the state. Some communities are expressing concern over where these dispensaries will be located, according to a Boston Globe article Saturday. Many members of multiple communities said they do not want to see the centers established anywhere near their schools or churches.
While placing dispensaries near schools could create a legitimate concern, a policy that forbids distribution centers from being placed near churches or other areas where children might be seems unnecessary. Simply opposing the drug does not seem like a strong enough reason to prohibit a center from locating near you. Now that medical marijuana has been legalized, communities should weigh the impact its presence could have on children. Ward 5 Councilor David Gamache told the Globe he would address dispensaries the same way his district has addressed adult entertainment, limiting it to areas where there are no children, churches or schools and away from downtown and the Northshore Mall.
Despite the stigma attached to marijuana, applying adult zoning laws to medical marijuana and equating it to strip clubs and other adult entertainment venues is not the answer. The substance, if used for medical purposes, can have a positive impact. It can relieve pain and reduce muscle stiffness in people who suffer from severe, chronic illnesses. Treating medical marijuana like adult entertainment might cast medical marijuana in a negative light, which curbs the progress supporters were aiming for in the first place.
Integrating dispensaries into communities might help remove some of that stigma. Residents will have more of an opportunity to see who uses those centers and how the centers are regulated. Exposing more people to these centers could push forward the idea that marijuana is not all bad, that it’s something people with chronic illnesses use.