Calif. vs. Mass. on marijuana bans

In November, Massachusetts voters legalized medical marijuana, and sent cities, towns, and state regulators scrambling. State public health officials are still sorting out regulations for selling patients a substance that remains illegal under federal law, while municipalities are grappling with questions about how, or whether, to fold marijuana dispensaries into local zoning.

Last month, Attorney General Martha Coakley appeared to put one of the larger unanswered questions surrounding the marijuana regulations to rest. Coakley ruled that while cities and towns may restrict where dispensaries may be located, municipalities couldn’t ban them outright. A recent decision out of California is likely to throw that decision into flux, though.

On Monday, California’s state supreme court ruled that towns in that state could legally issue outright bans against medical marijuana dispensaries. According to the Wall Street Journal, the California court found that the state’s medical marijuana law, created through a 1996 ballot initiative, “limits the inherent authority of a local jurisdiction, by its own ordinances, to regulate the use of its land.” The decision stems from an effort by the city of Riverside to broom dispensaries out of town. A local dispensary fought the city’s efforts, saying the state’s medical marijuana law gave it the implicit right to set up shop. But the state supreme court disagreed, ruling that the marijuana initiative didn’t alter or weaken municipal zoning powers.

Riverside’s attorney cheered the decision, telling the Journal that the ruling would reinforce the ability of municipalities to exercise “the authority to protect public safety” and “reduce the risk of abuse and all the negative secondary impacts that are associated with selling marijuana.”

The Massachusetts ballot initiative that legalized medical marijuana set up a far stricter regime than California’s. The Bay State law caps the number of dispensaries that may open at 35; the Journal story notes that as many as 1,000 dispensaries are currently operating in Los Angeles alone.

Although the California court ruling doesn’t have any direct bearing on the marijuana law and regulations Massachusetts is enacting, it’s likely to give marijuana opponents hope. Coakley ruled against outright municipal bans of dispensaries after Wakefield, Melrose, Peabody, and Reading had enacted bans, rather than just restrictions. Coakley’s office ruled that the bans couldn’t stand, as the marijuana ballot initiative’s “legislative purpose could not be served if a municipality could prohibit treatment centers within its borders, for if one municipality could do so, presumably all could do so.” Instead, Coakley’s office said, the most cities and towns could do would be to issue temporary moratoriums, and restrict dispensaries from certain areas, like near schools or residences.

Wakefield is now appealing Coakley’s rejection of its dispensary ban. “I think the feeling was that it’s in the best interest of Wakefield not to have these facilities, and we are going to move forward as strongly as we can with what the people wanted,” Wakefield town administrator Stephen Maio told the Globe. If he can’t go into court waiving a decision, from California, he at least has to be cheered by it. It shows the wrangling over dispensaries could just be getting started. 

                                                                                                                                                            –PAUL MCMORROW

MARATHON BOMBINGS

Keller@Large urges people to move their focus from trying to stop local burial of dead bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev and quit harassing people such as the funeral director and defense lawyers just doing their jobs. Margery Eagan calls Worcester undertaker Peter Stefan “the only hero in this sad saga” over Tsarnaev’s body. Charlie Pierce says his hometown is embarrassing him.

The Globe adds to the reporting that suggests MBTA police officer Richard Donahue was hit by friendly fire from another officer when he was gravely injured during the wild Watertown shootout on April 19.

Peter Gelzinis takes in a grim presentation from Ken Feinberg, the prolific victims’ fund administrator who will be distributing payments to bombing victims from the One Fund Boston. The Globe also reports on the meeting.

Robel Phillipos, a friend of Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is charged with lying to federal investigators, is freed on bail.

Concerns are being raised about anti-Muslim attacks being carried out in response to the Marathon bombings.

The American Spectator tries to make a connection between the Marathon bombers and former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers, who conservatives have been trying to tie to President Obama since his first election.

BEACON HILL

State Treasurer Steven Grossman, a likely candidate for governor, revives the debate over which municipalities should qualify as Gateway Cities, CommonWealth reports.

Attorney General Martha Coakley says lenders are violating terms of the national $25 billion mortgage fraud settlement.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow, in his weekly Globe column, drops in on the grand opening for Walgreens in Boston’s Downtown Crossing, and finds a lot not to like.

Methuen Mayor Stephen Zanni says the hacker activist group Anonymous attacked the city’s computer system in retaliation for the arrest of a high school student who threatened on Facebook to outdo the Marathon bombers, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The Gloucester Times, in an editorial, urges Manchester to revisit its ban on plastic bags because it is more far-reaching than many thought.

An examination of public payrolls by the Brockton Enterprise finds that 16 of the top 20 earners in East Bridgewater are men, with the four women all school employees.

Lowell prepares to shut down homeless encampments, the Sun reports.

Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch is proposing a 4.4 percent increase in this year’s budget that he says will restore many of the cuts in services and personnel that he has made since 2009.

Springfield’s city council president wants more time to consider MGM’s casino proposal.

Rockland voters approved the local option meals and hotel surtaxes at Town Meeting last night.

While many communities are passing moratoriums, Norwell voters at Town Meeting last night approved a zoning change that will allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in the town’s industrial parks.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The US Senate passes legislation letting states tax Internet purchases by residents, the Washington Post reports.

President Obama conceded defeat yesterday — on the golf course in a bipartisan match with GOP Sens. Saxby Chambliss, who hit a hole-in-one, and Bob Corker as well as Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission charges the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with securities fraud, Governing reports.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is working on his weight with surgical help.

The White House’s proposed budget would allow local housing authorities to impose time limits and work requirements on public housing residents. The Wall Street Journal looks at one California county’s experiences limiting public housing under a 1999 federal waiver.

ELECTIONS

The Senate campaigns of Ed Markey and Gabriel Gomez are racing to define just who Gomez is, WBUR reports.

Markey continues to hammer Gomez over his refusal to sign the so-called “people’s pledge” on campaign financing. Labor unions, piqued over the national Democratic Party’s treatment of card-carrying Congressman Steve Lynch, retaliates by playing footsie with Gomez.

The Herald wonders whether Boston mayoral candidate Felix Arroyo has a conflict, since his political strategists are also on the Suffolk Downs payroll.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Bank of America agrees to another massive housing bubble settlement — this one a $1.7 billion deal with its bond insurer.

Adobe will stop selling software like Illustrator and Photoshop in boxes, and move to an online-only model.

Black workers who live near large-scale farms are claiming racial discrimination, charging that farm work is being illegally steered to transient Mexican workers.

EDUCATION

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings allegedly caused by one of its students, UMass Dartmouth will amp up security and limit students to just two tickets each to this weekend’s graduation.

The National Review says free breakfasts in schools for poor students are a socialist plot that undermines the family unit and promotes bad parenting.

HEALTH CARE

The Republican hits the Obama administration on its failure to relax restrictions on emergency contraception.

TRANSPORTATION

Fall River officials are seeking funding for a study to determine market demand for a fast ferry service to Newport, Rhode Island, and Block Island, which they hope to launch this summer.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Globe examines controversies surrounding the use of long-term solitary confinement in Massachusetts prisons.

Three women kidnapped for as long as 10 years ago are found alive in a home in Cleveland, the Plain Dealer reports.

The Daily Beast reports on what happens to young people convicted as sex offenders.

MEDIA

The Nieman Journalism Lab examines how the Boston Globe used its two websites to cover the Marathon bombings.

Dan Kennedy weighs in on the attempts by Cohasset selectmen to try to find out the identities of anonymous posters making nasty comments on stories in the Patriot Ledger and Cohasset Mariner.