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In January, Massachusetts began issuing licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries. With the revelation of false data recorded in certain bids for permits, the development of this new industry is off to a rocky start. While we condemn the falsification of facts, we also believe that the application process is flawed. The granting of licenses should be divorced from local politics, and medical marijuana should be available for reasons of public health.
When Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana in 2012, it did so by passing a ballot measure with popular support from more than 60 percent of voters. In passing that measure, Massachusetts voters affirmed their belief in the exigency of cannabis for medical use. Medical marijuana can be used to treat a variety of illnesses—from chemotherapy-induced nausea to Crohn’s disease—and Massachusetts is right to make treatment accessible. By allowing medical marijuana, Massachusetts allows its people to seek proper medical treatment.
The current application process for medical marijuana dispensaries—which requires applicants to demonstrate public support for, or at a minimum non-objection to, their practice—turns a matter of public health into one of local politics. Massachusetts voters have already approved medical marijuana, and the application process should reflect that statewide approval, rather than forcing dispensaries to seek local support. Medical marijuana should not be considered a political question of local opinion, but instead an issue of public health. Where the medical community and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health determine dispensaries should exist, there they should be built.
As long as the current system remains in place, local politics will serve as an unnecessary obstacle to the establishment of dispensaries. In the meantime, individuals who need medical marijuana will not be able to access it, and will suffer as a result of their loss. We bemoan the fact that people may not be able to access needed treatment because of political or logistical reasons.
Massachusetts voters determined that medical marijuana be legal in the state. We support this decision, and believe that it is therefore the state government’s responsibility to facilitate medical marijuana's availability in a quick and efficient manner. The implementation of the state’s dispensary application policy should consequently be revisited in light of its recent failure, a symptom of the unnecessary regulations.
Still, we do not believe that marijuana dispensaries should be free from any and all regulation. It is important that, like any industry, this one is subject to scrutiny. And because marijuana is currently only legal for certain people in this state, it is important that dispensaries take precautions to ensure that the right people get medicine. It is also important that those patients obtain a safe product. Of utmost importance, however, is that they receive the treatment they need. Any policy that undercuts this goal should be amended.
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