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Mass. towns, regulators brace for medical marijuana

Massachusetts voters may have enthusiastically approved the legalization of medical marijuana, but that has not stopped communities around the state from rushing to amend their zoning regulations to make sure marijuana dispensaries are banned or restricted in their towns.

Although the law allowing the use of marijuana for patients with serious medical conditions went into effect Tuesday, the state Department of Public Health has until May 1 to issue regulations on who will run the dispensaries, who will work there, and how they will be operated.

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DPH must also decide what constitutes a 60-day supply patients can receive.

Some cities and towns are working to bar dispensaries. Wakefield and Reading have already approved zoning changes to keep them out.

‘‘People are concerned about how broad the law was written and that the dispensaries could be used by more than just people with medical issues,’’ said Ruth Clay, the health director for Wakefield, Reading, and Melrose, which is also working to pass a ban on dispensaries.

The law approved through Question 3 on the November election ballot eliminates civil and criminal penalties for the use of marijuana by people with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS, and other conditions determined by a doctor.

Opponents have said they are concerned that the public health officials will not be able to prevent abuses of the new law.

The Massachusetts Municipal Association is calling for a six-month delay in implementing the law.

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