Northampton is currently one of eleven cities in Massachusetts on the verge of opening a medical marijuana dispensary. After being voted into law in November 2012, the state is at the dawn of a new era in medical practices. 118 Conz St. is the future location of New England Treatment Access, who secured site plan approval from the Northampton Planning Board last May.
“I’m very proud of the fact that I live in a community that is so open, so tolerant, so welcoming of this dispensary”, says Richard Evans, a local marijuana law reform advocate.
Richard Evans and his partner Michael Cutler are local attorneys as well as medical marijuana lawyers. Their law office, Evans/Cutler, is located less than half a mile down the road from the future dispensary, a place they’ve both advocated for professionally and in their personal time for many years.
“First of all it would take drug dealers off the street”, says Evans. “It means that qualified patients will have legal access to this medicine that relieves their suffering and provides other benefits. And it means that the medicine they do obtain will be reliable, it will be clean, it will be free of impurities and contaminants. And it means that they will be able to discus and be more open with their physicians concerning the use of marijuana in medical treatment. I think there will be immense benefits to patients.”
Michael Cutler says “we’re not talking about healthy people but for a hangnail coming in and getting certified, we’re talking about a great many people with some very debilitating conditions, including one of the recently prominent conditions, which is opioid overdoses. Right now we have an epidemic going on, and there’s plenty of scientific research last summer that the journal of the American medical association published an article showing data that medical marijuana states are all experiencing a uniformly lower level of opioid abuse death rates then states that don’t have medical marijuana.”
But not everyone is welcome the dispensary with open arms. Paul McNeil of the Northampton Prevention Coalition feels that “the presence of a medical marijuana dispensary is probably only going to increase the likelihood that students will have a decreased perception of harm.”
McNeil serves as the coalition coordinator where he works with the public as well as Northampton schools to prevent drug use amongst teens. He believes that the presence of a dispensary will increase the availability of marijuana to people without a prescription.
“So we’re concerned that one dispensary in Northampton, medical dispensary licensed in Northampton, that would increase a few things. It would increase the actual presence of marijuana. It would also increase traffic to marijuana, specifically to obtain marijuana. And the good news is that there’s a bit of a protection around how easily accessible it is, obviously because of you do need a doctor’s permission, essentially, to receive access to that marijuana. But we are concerned with diversion, which is when you have access to marijuana and you divert it to someone who doesn’t have permission to use marijuana.”
Officials said that the local permits have been cleared with inspectors for the future dispensary, all that remains is for the state to award them the final Certificate of Registration before operations can commence.