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Editorial: Take control over medical marijuana

Should a community worry about where a dispensary for medical marijuana is located?

Ideally, probably not. The whole issue is being thoroughly regulated by the state, so one would think that it is no different than, say, a drug store with its myriad pills and potions aimed at providing medical relief.

In that respect, it’s different than a store that sells liquor or beer and tobacco products.

But the decision by Massachusetts voters last fall should not be seen as an isolated circumstance that ends with the legalizing of medical marijuana. This is why taking the time to consider a community’s handling of landing a medical marijuana dispensary makes sense, something that seemed to have escaped the thinking of some members of the Greenfield Town Council.

Like so many other situations, it is better for a community to act ahead rather than try to play catch up.

But you don’t have to take our word for it — just look at the experience of those states that preceded Massachusetts in legalizing marijuana use for medical reasons, including California. Since breaking ground as the first state to approve medical marijuana through a voter referendum in 1996, the California program has successfully provided marijuana to people who suffer from all kinds of disabilities and illnesses.

But the Golden State has also had more than its share of problems involving illegal growing and sales as well as some fraudulently obtaining medical marijuana cards.

It’s gotten so bad in the eyes of some state legislators that bills were introduced this year to tighten the regulations, though those efforts didn’t bear fruit this year. But the issue isn’t simply what’s happening now, it’s also what’s on the horizon for California — the recreational sale and use of pot. Just last week, a voter initiative for decriminalization was OK’d for a signature drive, thus possibly moving California closer to the recent path taken by Colorado and Washington state.

Massachusetts may not be there yet. But we can see a day where a concerted effort to legalize marijuana for recreational use in the state gains ground.

Having strong state, as well as local, regulations when it comes to the medical dispensaries puts communities in a better position to deal with the future.

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