Sánchez to halt medical pot bill

Local state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez once again is poised to halt a bill that would legalize medical-use marijuana.

His annual killing of the proposal has angered local and statewide marijuana activists. But this time, those activists seem to be focused more on their own efforts to make medical marijuana legalization a ballot question.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, which is used to treat nausea and pain in such diseases as cancer and AIDS. But, Sánchez told the Gazette, he remains concerned about how those laws conflict with the federal ban on pot.

“The federal government still reserves its right to bang on people’s door and arrest them, despite state laws,” Sánchez said, adding that cities could get in legal trouble as well. The federal government needs to take a clearer stand on the issue, he said.

“I’m not inherently disposed to say no [to medical marijuana legalization],” he said. “I don’t question the science and the potential wellness benefits. But the challenge lies in the dispensing.”

“Patients deserve the same access to necessary medical resources to fight debilitating diseases that are available in 16 other states across the country,” said Whitney Taylor of the pro-medical marijuana group the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance in a written statement to the Gazette. Taylor’s statement began with a reference to the MPAA’s ongoing ballot question initiative, which reportedly already has attracted more than 100,000 petition-signers.

Voters forced the state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in a 2008 ballot question. About 78 percent of JP voters backed that idea.

Jeff Herman, a JP activist who ran against Sánchez in 2010, was among those testifying in favor of the medical marijuana legalization this year.

Every year, some type of medical marijuana legalization bill comes before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health, which Sánchez chairs. He has sent those bills to “study,” effectively killing them. The most recent version, expected to be sent to study sometime between now and May, is House Bill 625, which would create nonprofit centers where patients could get medical marijuana with a prescription and an identity card. “I haven’t heard anything new” regarding how the legalization squares with federal law, Sánchez said.

Other types of marijuana legalization proposals have come before the legislature’s judiciary committee and similarly have gone nowhere.


Updated version: This version corrects that Rep. Sánchez has not yet sent the bill to study, but is prepared to do so.

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