Officials: Municipalities Should Have Power to Ban Smoking Medical Marijuana in Public
State Representative Cleon Turner’s idea is “simple and straightforward.”
“I want to provide municipalities, landlords, property owners, and business owners the opportunity to prohibit smoking marijuana—whether for medical purposes or otherwise—on their property,” says the Democrat who represents the Cape Cod town of Dennis.
In the language of four separate bills filed by Turner, which will go before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary on June 19, various entities, depending on the legislation, would have the power to keep people who use marijuana for medicinal purposes from lighting up the drug in designated areas, much like cigarette smoking bans on certain properties. “It’s a no brainer,” said Turner. “If you can prohibit the smoking of cigarettes—which we have passed because of the second hand smoke issues—wouldn’t that be the same for marijuana? It’s affecting other people.”
Turner’s proposals will go before legislators during a committee meeting on Beacon Hill, a little over one month after the official rules for opening a dispensary for the sale and distribution of medical marijuana were approved by the state’s Public Health Council.
Currently, the Department of Public Health, the agency tasked with overseeing the medical marijuana law passed last November, is building the necessary infrastructure to implement the provisions, including the development of an online registration process for patients and caregivers. The department will issue registration cards to patients once it completes that program.
But as the DPH works out the kinks in the distribution and registration process, Turner wants to make adjustments to where people will be allowed to smoke the drug.
Turner has received support from small property owners and landlords, who claim allowing the drug to be smoked indoors puts them at risk with federal officials, and also has the potential to damage rentals.
Skip Schloming, executive director of the state’s Small Property Owners Association, said the way the law was drafted creates a dilemma for landlords like him. “When smoking and growing marijuana, it involves a lot of moisture and lights, and could be a disaster for the apartment. There is also a chance for it to create mold on the walls,” he said, something that could become costly to fix.
Like Turner, Schloming said if cigarette smoking can be prohibited in apartments for rent, renters should be able to ban medical marijuana use as well. But because patients who use medical marijuana are considered to have a “disability,” he said, landlords can’t ask about their use because of anti-discrimination laws. “Allowing us to be able to refuse an application, it lets us make that decision ourselves and protects [landlords’ properties].”
Under one of Turner’s proposals, however, if passed, Schloming’s apartments, and those of other small property owners, would be in the clear and allowed to prohibit the use indoors. “This is perfectly logical, and not a breach of the purpose [of medical marijuana] passed by voters,” said Turner, adding that the rules and regulations for the drug’s use should have been placed in the hands of the legislature, and not voted through by the general public.
But DPH officials said last month there was nothing wrong with the regulations they put together for the public. “DPH has carefully considered hundreds of opinions and concerns from across the Commonwealth to create a medical marijuana system that is right for Massachusetts,” said DPH Interim Commissioner Dr. Lauren Smith. “The final regulations reflect a balanced approach that will provide appropriate access to patients, while maintaining a secure system that keeps our communities safe.”