Prescription pot zoning has to start over, but it’s not too early to bar it from parks
There’s a truly bitter juxtaposition in two medical marijuana items heard Monday by the City Council.
First, the zoning amendment that would have allowed the siting of the city’s only pot dispensary was allowed to expire a week ago – by accident. “Due to a clerical error,” a memo from City Clerk’s Office told councillors, the expiration date was given as Sept. 30 instead of the actual date of Sept. 15.
“Is there any way to do this without it moving through the Planning Board again?” asked councillor Leland Cheung, moving to restart the zoning’s passage.
The answer was no.
“Good try,” said Mayor David Maher, to laughs from the gathered officials.
The petition has to go through the Planning Board and council Ordinance Committee again for at least pro forma votes before the city’s Alewife “medical marijuana overlay district” can be expanded by a single block to include the address of a proposed Greeneway Wellness Foundation dispensary.
A medical marijuana law was passed statewide in November 2012, with 73 percent of Cantabrigians in favor and 19 percent opposed, and the law went into effect officially the following January. But delays at the state and local level have meant that 21 months later, there are still no dispensaries in the state serving people suffering from chronic pain or illnesses such as multiple sclerosis.
The rollout of the state’s medical marijuana law has gone so poorly that DigBoston is outright saying the state is violating its own law and suggesting that the foot-dragging stems from corruption influence by money from the pharmaceutical and health care industries. In Cambridge, it’s more likely from an agonizing, insensitive and in many ways pointless abundance of caution.
John Greene, founder and chief executive of Greeneway, said during the summer – before the zoning was allowed to expire – that he expected his Cambridge dispensary to open in January. He was asked late Monday for new comment on an opening date.
“No smoking” signs
Meanwhile, there was a policy order from vice mayor Dennis Benzan suggesting the installation of “no smoking marijuana” signs in city parks “to discourage young people from doing so” for health reasons and because it is illegal.
It sparked some debate, with councillor Craig Kelley saying he saw “no use coming out of such a sign and would prefer we have other discussions about marijuana, perhaps,” while councillor Nadeem Mazen saying he was torn on the issue of addressing a nonviolent drug offense, but acknowledged hearing “large number of complaints from people who want to use a playground and are actually overrun by people [smoking] and dominating the space.”
Maher interrupted the debate to remind the council of the redundancy of acting on the order.
“It is illegal – we have changes before the council about no smoking of any kind in a public park,” Maher said. “So it’s not whether it’s a cigarette or whether it’s a joint.”
An Ordinance Committee meeting is set for 5 p.m. Oct. 30 at City Hall to take up recommendations from a city tobacco task force to prevent smoking of any kind in public parks.