Editorial, Opinion

EDIT: Decriminalizing medical marijuana

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.


  1. Ending prohibition would greatly reduce, even almost eliminate, the market in illegal narcotics, cause a reduction in the number of users and addicts, greatly curtail drug related illness and deaths, reduce societal harm from problematic abusers, and bring about an enormous reduction in the presence and influence of organized crime. The people who use drugs are our own children, our brothers, our sisters, our parents, and our neighbors. By allowing all adults safe and controlled legal access to psychoactive substances, we will not only greatly reduce the dangers for both them and ourselves but also greatly minimize the possibility of ‘peer-initiation’ and sales to minors.

    “Evidence provides no indication that decriminalization leads to a measurable increase in marijuana use.”

    — Boston University Department of Economics

    “There is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use.”

    — National Academy of Sciences

    “The preponderance of the evidence which we have gathered and examined points to the conclusion that decriminalization has had virtually no effect either on the marijuana use or on related attitudes and beliefs about marijuana use among American young people.”

    — The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research

    “The Dutch experience, together with those of a few other countries with more modest policy changes, provides a moderately good empirical case that removal of criminal prohibitions on cannabis possession (decriminalization) will not increase the prevalence of marijuana or any other illicit drug; the argument for decriminalization is thus strong.”

    — British Journal of Psychiatry

  2. They should set up the dispensaries like gas stations so they can eventually sell gasoline made from marijuana.

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