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Massachusetts Attorney General says cannabis dispensaries can’t be banned

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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has changed her position on if towns can ban medical and social use cannabis dispensaries in the state. This was previously being allowed, but Healey now says that patients who use medical cannabis need access to dispensaries, and the law does not permit banning them.

“Such a ban would frustrate the purpose of [the medical marijuana law] to allow qualifying patients who have been diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions reasonable access to medical marijuana treatment centers,” Healey wrote. “[The law’s] legislative purpose could not be served if a municipality could prohibit treatment centers within its borders, for if one municipality could do so, presumably all could do so.”

Advocates are calling this a win for medical cannabis patients and for legalization generally. They say it was wrong and dangerous to ban dispensaries when so many Massachusetts citizens rely on them.

“This policy was reversed by the AG’s office because it was incorrect, but it would have destroyed the medical program effectively hurting patient access in a domino effect going from town to town,” Maggie Kinsella, a MassCann representative, told Cannabis News Box. She said banning dispensaries leaves patients “going backwards after making so many miraculous steps forward. It would be cruel to force those who cannot get out of bed to find their medicine in the illicit market.”

Kinsella believes banning dispensaries just means that the illicit cannabis market will flourish, and it puts patients in danger in numerous ways. Rather than help an illegal market, advocates believe town should allow a safe, regulated market to thrive.

The towns of Bellingham and Northborough already banned dispensaries, so patients in those towns have nowhere to purchase cannabis. Now that Healey has made this change, business owners will be able to move into those towns.

Towns banning cannabis dispensaries isn’t only a problem in Massachusetts. California law currently allows towns to ban cannabis dispensaries, and it has been a serious problem for many medical cannabis patients. Advocates have been pushing to change the law so this will no longer be allowed, but they haven’t made much progress yet. Certain more conservative parts of the state have been resisting their efforts.

“Sales are currently happening in the illicit market, and they are only enabling the illicit market that has existed right in their backyard this whole time, for decades,” Kinsella said of people who push for cannabis dispensary bans.

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Massachusetts Attorney General says cannabis dispensaries can’t be banned