“That strikes me as extremely logical,” said Bill Downing, an official with The Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, which supports the legalization of the drug. Downing dismissed efforts to ban or impede centers as “a lot of posturing,” and cited studies that rebut claims that dispensaries are magnets for crime.
Experts at UCLA studied crime rates in 95 different parts of Sacramento, Calif., in 2009 and found no correlation between crime and concentration of medical marijuana outlets.
Law enforcement officials are skeptical, and say the law will be exploited by drug dealers and lead to more addiction.
But supporters say Massachusetts can use the experience of other states to craft strong regulations.
“It’s not as if Massachusetts will be reinventing the wheel here,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “There are practical models that are up and running and have been for some time.”
Regulations vary from state to state, he said, but are generally considered rigorous. A dozen states, including California, Colorado, and Maine, allow dispensaries.
Massachusetts town officials say that while banning centers may not pass legal muster, zoning restrictions should be valid.
“The precedent exists for adult entertainment facilities,” said Adam Baacke, who directs Lowell’s planning and development department. “Chances are, this is a use that will be viewed in a similar light.”
But some backers of the medical marijuana law say the debate may be moot. By the time the centers are licensed and set to open, marijuana may be legalized, some speculate.
“The population is behind this,” Downing said.