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Newton Marijuana Dispensary Gains Approval


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WL – The Board of Aldermen voted 21-2 Monday night in favor of approving a special permit for Garden Remedies, the Newton marijuana dispensary.

Opponents of the project have 20 days to appeal the decision. After that, Garden Remedies can apply for a building permit to renovate the building, which attorney Steve Buchbinder, who represents Garden Remedies, said it will do.

Alderman Lisle Baker voted against the special permit for several reasons, including discrepancies between information Garden Remedies submitted to the state and information it submitted to the city, traffic concerns, plus the fact that buying, selling and using marijuana remains a federal crime.

“In good conscience,” Baker said, “I cannot support the item.”

Alderman Jim Cote, who voted in favor of the special permit as a member on the Land Use Committee, voted against it as a member of the full board.

“It’s a new law, but it doesn’t mean we have to support the law,” Cote said. “As a parent of 10, I can’t support the introduction of a substance to a community that isn’t legal in the country.”

Buchbinder said he and his client were happy to have cleared that hurdle.

“We were really pleased,” Buchbinder said. “It’s the culmination of a long effort.”

Buchbinder said his client still needs a cultivation site to grow the marijuana, which will not be located in Newton. Once the seeds are planted, it takes four months for them to mature.

“We don’t expect to be open for business before the spring,” Buchbinder said.

Dr. Karen Munkacy, who owns Garden Remedies, said she was very pleased by the support from the Newton community. She said she is considering 8 properties outside of Newton for cultivation sites and is in lease negotiations with her top two choices.

Munkacy, a breast cancer survivor, said she had a particularly difficult time with chemotherapy and wants to provide relief to people who suffered like she did.

“We’re excited to get started helping patients with this medicine,” Munkacy said. “Hopefully people in the future won’t have to make the choice between suffering and breaking the law.”

10/24/2014 |

Bay State Repeal – Marijuana Policy Project Working For Recreational Legalization


court weed 230x129 photoWL – A Reading-based advocacy grouped is seeking to get a question on the ballot for a 2016 vote that would legalize the recreational use of cannabis in Massachusetts.

Bill Downing, leader of Bay State Repeal, has been advocating for the positive opportunities brought by legalizing marijuana since 1989. He thinks that the time is fast approaching where the drug will be accepted and taxed like other mind-altering substances, namely alcohol and tobacco.

Backed financially by the

Marijuana Policy Project, which has pledged $1.8 million for a campaign to draw up a piece of legislation to give to the attorney general, Bay State Repeal hopes to raise enough money and awareness of its own to make a major impact in just two years.

“When I started in 1989 doing this, it did seem like a Star Trek future. But now in 2014, it seems like before my kids graduate college, this is going to happen,” Downing said.

Although the days of “Reefer Madness” and the perception of marijuana being as dangerous as cocaine or heroin are long gone, the battle for widespread recreational legalization is much farther from a unanimous decision. About 54 percent of Americans feel that marijuana should be legal, according to a Pew Research poll.

State Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, has stated that he would not support such a ballot question in 2016. He cites a growing amount of scientific evidence that shows marijuana use harms cognitive growth and brain function in young adults and teenagers.

“I worry that if we were to legalize it, it would send a message to young people that it’s not harmful and they don’t need to be concerned about using marijuana. I think that’s not the road that we want to go down in the state,” Lewis said.

Addressing Lewis’s point on marijuana use in the younger generation, Downing was adamant in his defense. He said activists do not intend for cannabis to fall into the hands of young people. He also noted that any laws would stringent regulations to prevent that.

“The other thing is that the prohibition has been completely ineffective in keeping marijuana out of the hands of children,” Downing added. “What, are we going to continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result? That’s Einstein’s definition of insanity. We’ve been trying that same tactic here in Massachusetts since 1913; it’s been 101 years.”

Downing believes that many of the reasons for the hesitancy to completely legalize the drug are not based in sound logic. He said cannabis is “safer than aspirin.”

Another argument used by anti-cannabis advocates is that the sudden legality of marijuana would result in a far higher number of people who use the drug, causing unwanted side effects in society. But Downing doesn’t agree with this either.

“Virtually anybody who wants to get marijuana now, even while it’s prohibited, can get it already,” he said. “So the idea that all of these people are now all of the sudden start smoking marijuana I think is very unrealistic.”

One of Downing’s main points of argument regards the black market, which is a general term that encompasses all production, distribution, and sales of illicit substances, such as marijuana.

“Not only are you taking away consumer dollars from the above ground, legitimate economy and throwing them into the underground market, the other bad half is who you’re giving it to on the other end,” he said. “That money that is disappearing from our legitimate economy is going into the hands of some of the most dangerous people in the world.”

This is also why Bay State Repeal cautions against the implementation of extremely high taxes if marijuana is eventually legalized.

“If you tax this stuff too heavily, then people are going to continue what they’re doing now; which is buying it on the black market and growing it themselves,” Downing said.

Recreational marijuana does not have the same support as medical marijuana, which is now legal in 23 states plus the District of Columbia. But Colorado and Washington legalization of recreational marijuana back in 2012 could provide a litmus test for changing that view. Lewis said he is inclined to wait for more data to emerge from those two states before making Massachusetts the third state to legalize.

Meanwhile, activists like Bill Downing are gearing up for a legislative bout with large implications for the state of Massachusetts. He thinks the giving citizens the opportunity to vote for such a law is a fight worth fighting, and one that is at the core of American values.

“It tells the people that they have the ability to rule their own destiny,” he said. “When the government doesn’t reflect the goals or the general values of the people, the time has surely come for the laws to fit the times.”

10/18/2014 |

DPH Commissioner Resigns Amidst Marijuana Program Criticism


bartlett 230x172 photoHerald – Cheryl Bartlett, the state’s public health commissioner who has faced criticism amid its roll-out of long-awaited medical marijuana licenses, is stepping down in December to run a substance abuse program on the Cape, state officials announced today.

Bartlett will join Cape Cod Healthcare to lead the launch of its new substance abuse prevention and treatment program, Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz told staff in a memo.

“On a personal level, having Cheryl as our DPH Commissioner has put a real partner and advocate for the public’s health in the role and I am both saddened to see Cheryl go, but happy to have been able to work with her at the helm of the Department,” Polanowicz said.

Bartlett joins a growing list of high-level officials leaving as Gov. Deval Patrick prepares to end his second and final term in early January. Richard Davey, Patrick’s transportation secretary, will resign at the end of this month, the administration has announced.

Bartlett has been scrutinized as the state has dragged in awarding licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries nearly two years after voters first approved them at the ballot. She’s also had to remove herself from the process due to her ties to former Congressman William Delahunt, whose company was initially cleared for three dispensaries before state officials later disqualified it.

10/15/2014 |

Boston Rally Today To Demand Access To Medical Marijuana


dph 230x1961 photoTuesday morning a rally is planned to demand access to medical marijuana in Massachusetts.

The protest starts at 11 at Boston’s Department of Public Health, followed by a march to the State House.

Organizers say it’s unacceptable that the state has failed to implement the program approved two years ago.

The dispensary licensing process has been plagued by delays.

Please share this so the state gets the message!

10/14/2014 |

Mass Has Collected Over $3M In Dispensary Fees And Not One Seed Has Been Planted


pot money 230x230 photoBostinno – It was almost an entire month ago that medical marijuana advocates crammed underneath the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House to outline a number of problems the state is perpetuating with the licensing process. Years after the herbal treatment was approved by Bay State voters, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has yet to allow dispensaries to put seeds in the ground, but they’ve been happy to collect the application fees in the process.

To date, MassDPH has banked $3,271,500 in application fees from prospective dispensaries. Consider that 181 applicants paid out $1,500 apiece. When that number was trimmed down to 100, they subsequently paid out $30,000 each in order to move on. Just 11 dispensaries stand to open their doors at this point.

The fees are nonrefundable for the hopefuls that didn’t make the cut.

But that’s not all. Dispensaries that are approved for licensure will have to pony up annual fees of $50,000 for registration, $500 for dispensary agent registration and another $50 for patient registration. And then there’s an architectural review of the premises that will cost at least $1,500.

Manager of Communications & External Affairs for the Medical Use of Marijuana Program Scott Zoback confirmed to BostInno in an email that MassDPH is currently conducting site visits for the 11 dispensaries that have been approved for this part of the process as part of the inspection phase.

He made no indication of when dispensaries might be approved to start servicing patients, who have been waiting much too long for their treatments.

It’s ironic, then, that Boston of all places will be hosting the inaugural New England Cannabis Convention in January 2015. The convention is meant to showcase medical marijuana developments, such as edibles and other means of ingestion, although its real purpose is to connect patients with dispensaries and caregivers.

The convention is slated to be held at the Castle at Park Plaza in Boston. Mayor Marty Walsh, however, chief executive Boston, where medical marijuana is supposed to be available by law to those who require it, has expressed his displeasure with the idea of allowing dispensaries in Boston abundantly. He’s made it clear that he’ll abide by the will of the people, or most likely that of the more open-minded Boston City Council, but there’s still plenty of time to iron out those kinks.

After all, the medical marijuana program’s Executive Director Karen van Unen suggested that dispensary doors could open in Massachusetts as early as November, but seeing as how we’re about midway through October and inspections are still being undertaken, it’s likely the process will continue to be delayed even further down the road.

10/14/2014 |
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