Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pressure grows to legalize medical pot

18 distribution centers eyed in Bay State

By Christine McConville and Dave Wedge | Tuesday, March 1, 2011 |
http://www.bostonherald.com | Local Coverage

Pot “Wal-Marts” like those planned for California and other states could
throw open their doors in the Bay State, as momentum builds for the
legalization of medical marijuana.

Two years after Massachusetts decriminalized possession of small amounts
of pot, a bill pending on Beacon Hill would allow prescriptions for
medical marijuana and set up 18 distribution centers across Massachusetts.

“Since the 1930s, we’ve been fighting marijuana as the killer weed, and
that has to stop,” said state Rep. Frank I. Smizik, a Brookline Democrat
championing the bipartisan bill. “There are so many people suffering
with serious diseases where marijuana is the only way to stop the pain
and keep them going.”

Similar legislation is in place in Vermont and Rhode Island, where
cancer and other chronically ill patients can buy reefer. Maine, which
has allowed prescription weed for 12 years, is in the process of
licensing eight dispensaries.

Meanwhile, a 10,000-square- foot gardening emporium, described in news
reports as “the Wal-Mart of weed, just opened in Sacramento, offering
experts and merchandise to help medical marijuana patients grow their
own pot.

But even as the movement grows, some states are pulling back on their
own medical marijuana laws amid spiking crime. The Montana House
recently voted to repeal the state’s six-year-old medical marijuana law
and in Colorado, seven towns have shut down dispensaries.

“We’ve had home invasions, and robberies and rip-offs of the people in
the underground-growing business,” said Fort Collins, Colo. police Capt.
Jerry Schiager. “The problem is it is so profitable, and the criminal
element is so anxious to get in here and exploit this market, you have
to be very careful.”

The Bay State proposal could be a money-maker for the commonwealth,
Smizik said, as distribution centers will have to pay licensing fees of
$5,000. And, he argues, it will also cut down on street crime as at
least a portion of sales will be regulated by the state.

“A lot of medicines (patients) get, like OxyContin, are pretty dangerous
... Marijuana is the only thing that lets them function, and people have
to go out on the street to buy it,” Smizik said.

The time is ripe for a “discussion” about legalizing medical marijuana
in the Bay State, agreed state Rep. Daniel Winslow, a Wrentham
Republican and former judge who noted a nonbinding referendum on the
issue passed “overwhelmingly” in his district in the 2010 election.

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