California – Pay Attention Mass. AG
California – Pay Attention Mass. AG –
Medical marijuana businesses in Massachusetts may have one fewer headache after state Attorney General Maura Healey reversed an earlier decision that allowed municipalities to prohibit MMJ dispensaries.
Here are the basics behind the situation:
- According to CommonWealth magazine, Massachusetts passed a medical marijuana law in 2012 that included a provision prohibiting cities and towns from banning MMJ dispensaries. But in 2016, voters passed a recreational marijuana law that included a provision that some local governments interpreted as allowing them to ban both recreational marijuana stores and MMJ dispensaries.
- Margaret Hurley, head of the Municipal Law Unit in the AG’s office, had approved warrants from Bellingham and Northborough that banned both adult-use cannabis retail stores and future medical marijuana dispensaries in those towns, the magazine reported.
- CommonWealth also noted that the attorney general’s office initially agreed with the interpretation, but the decision was reversed late last week.
“Upon further review, we now determine that this approval was given in error,” Hurley wrote in a letter to local government officials in Bellingham.
A similar letter went to officials in Northborough, which had passed its own measure prohibiting MMJ dispensaries.
Hurley told town officials they “should strongly consider not enforcing the ban,” according to CommonWealth.
The attorney general cited a 2013 decision by previous Attorney General Martha Coakley prohibiting another town, Wakefield, from banning dispensaries.
Relevance to California
The passage of Proposition 215 is considered a significant victory for medical cannabis. It exempts patients and defined caregivers who possess or cultivate cannabis for medical treatment recommended by a physician from criminal laws which otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of cannabis.
In May 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a California state appellate ruling from 2008 that upheld Proposition 215 and concluded that California can decide whether to eliminate its own criminal penalties for medical cannabis regardless of federal law. The appellate ruling came about because of a lawsuit against Proposition 215 filed by San Diego and San Bernardino counties.
These counties objected to Proposition 215 on the grounds that it requires them, in their view, to condone drug use that is illegal under federal law. They also challenged a law that requires counties to issue identification cards to medical cannabis patients, so these patients can identify themselves to law enforcement officials as legally entitled to possess small amounts of cannabis. [ San Francisco Chronicle, “Solano to allow medical cannabis ID cards,” June 24, 2009]