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Published On: Tue, Nov 27th, 2012

Kingston’s Burning Question


Medical marijuana is now law in Massachusetts, but the debate over prescribed pot throughout the Commonwealth is just beginning.

As the state’s first marijuana merchants wade into the waters of commerce, many towns are grappling with newly-kindled debates over whether to ban cannabis dispensaries outright.

Northwest of Boston, in Wakefield, a proposed by-law to ban the dispensaries turned the police chief of this small town into a lobbyist at

Wakefield’s town meeting earlier this month.

Richard Smith, Wakefield’s Police Chief, was quoted at the November 16th town meeting by

“We have enough problems with driving under the influence of alcohol,” Smith said during his presentation at town meeting.

The result of Smith’s appeal?

Wakefield citizens voted 143-9 to approve the proposed by-law, banning marijuana dispensaries within their town.

Reading, like Wakefield, has also approved an ordinance banning the new “pot shops.”

Only a few miles away from Reading, a similar law will be considered in Melrose.

Reading, Wakefield and Melrose have one thing in common: all three towns voted to approve the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative.

Kingston also voted to approve Question 3, but whether Kingstonians support marijuana dispensaries at home is a conversation that has yet to occur.

Nearby, several towns on the South Shore have started the dispensary discussion with a friendly, accommodating tone.

This weekend, The Patriot Ledger reported that municipal bureaucrats in Hanover, Quincy and Braintree were pondering restrictions that would restrict cannabis dispensaries to the same zones that permit adult entertainment.

The medical marijuana law, which goes into effect New Year’s Day, requires all 14 Massachusetts counties to host at least one marijuana dispensary by the end of 2013. The law also caps the amount of dispensary locations per county at five.

So far, Kingston is not one of the towns throughout the Bay State attempting to regulate medical marijuana…but that could change on a dime.  (No pun intended.)

What is clear about the law is how many dispensaries are required, where, and by when.

What isn’t clear about the Medical Marijuana Initiative is how towns regulate the dispensaries. While some towns have banned the “pot shops” all together, it isn’t yet clear whether cities and towns even have the authority to do so.

See what I mean? The debate is just beginning.

Some of these questions may need to be answered in courtrooms, and it’s likely to be years before Bay Staters know whether municipalities have the authority to fully prohibit dispensaries within their borders.

In the meantime, Kingston, like hundreds of towns across Massachusetts, has been confronted with the hazy, cloudy prospect of medical marijuana. And Kingston, like hundreds of towns across Massachusetts, is one “pot shop” proposal away from  seeing that prospect become a reality.



By the way, in case you didn’t read the fine print — this is the link to the text of the law passed by the voters. invites readers to share their thoughts (by commenting below) regarding how Kingston should react if a medical-marijuana dispensary is proposed in town.

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