State House News Q&A: Mayoral candidates on medical marijuana

By 
Mike Deehan, State House News Service
Sep. 13, 2013

In response to a News Service questionnaire, nine of the 12 candidates hoping to become the next mayor of Boston explained their stances on regulating and supervising medical marijuana facilities in the city.

QUESTION: How would your administration deal with medical marijuana dispensaries in Boston?

JOHN CONNOLLY: Voters have decided that such dispensaries are legal and it is now up to the city to come up with thoughtful zoning requirements to ensure that dispensaries are not concentrated in our most underserved neighborhoods or near schools.

FELIX ARROYO: Government works best when it works with you and not over you. I believe that medical marijuana dispensaries should seek and gain community approval before they are opened.

BILL WALCZAK: We need to be mindful about where these dispensaries are placed so the dispensary can benefit patients, not disrupt neighborhoods, and not infringe but enhance the surrounding businesses. Though I support medical marijuana, I do believe that it needs to be regulated just as the distribution of any controlled substance is. Following the law, and the regulations provided by DPH, I would work with the City Council, our city's health care institutions and our neighborhoods to place these dispensaries in places that are both accessible to patients and appropriate for the area.

MIKE ROSS: Several members of my family have gotten relief from medical marijuana, and their experiences have taught me the importance of it being safely and legally attainable. But I'd want to make sure that dispensaries aren't located too near a school or clustered in particular neighborhoods. As I did on the City Council for issues like food trucks and parks, I would look to other cities for lessons learned in implementation. We can learn from places like Los Angeles, Seattle, and Denver, that have already gone through this process.

JOHN BARROS: Since voters overwhelmingly passed a 2012 ballot question to support medical marijuana, DPH has moved quickly to create regulations for dispensaries to ensure security and quality. It will be important for Boston to implement the same protections, working closely with the state Department of Public Health. It is important that patients / consumers are protected from unlicensed fraudulent dispensaries.

DAN CONLEY: These dispensaries were established through ballot initiative, with proponents arguing that Massachusetts would provide medical marijuana to those suffering from serious illnesses, but without many of the abuses critics decried in other states. The Patrick Administration and the Department of Public Health undertook an exhaustive process to solicit input from many stakeholders, consider best practices from other states, and so forth. As Mayor I'll ensure that all rules and regulations are being followed and will work with the state and the city's own Public Health Commission to monitor the impact of the dispensaries.

ROB CONSALVO: First and foremost, I respect the will of the voters, and whether you're for or against the dispensaries, it is legal for them to operate in our city. As City Councilor, I held the first public hearing to discuss the zoning of these dispensaries. We need to ensure that we follow the will of the law, that we allow access to the dispensaries for people who truly need them for medical reasons and that we have zoning in place that allows for a transparent and public process to decide where they go.

MARTY WALSH: I support the law that establishes medical marijuana dispensaries, but the qualifications to receive the drug must be strict. There must be a system in place to allow residents to report any illegal or unsavory activity they may witness at these places, as well as a strict process for those in charge of the dispensaries to grow and distribute their product to only those who have a doctor's prescription.

CHARLES YANCEY: Medical Marijuana dispensaries should be licensed and regulated by the Boston Public Health Commission in Boston.

The News Service sent the questionnaire to the campaigns of candidates Charles Clemons, David Wyatt and Charlotte Golar Richie. Those campaigns did not respond to the questionnaire before publication.