By Jim Pillsbury
FRAMINGHAM – The legalization of marijuana started for me over 30 years ago when I had an encounter with a Judge who told me, “if you don’t like the laws… change them.”
From that point on, I did. Before the days of the information super highway, information was hard to come by. But I discovered a book, The Emperor Wears
No Clothes by Jack Herer. Things I had never heard or read before about cannabis, hemp and marijuana were in that book.
After connecting with a few enlightened people from around the State, we set out to educate the masses about what we had found out. When we started out, only 30 percent of Americans felt marijuana should be legal. Today, over 55 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legal and over 80 percent believe medicinal marijuana should be legal for those who could benefit from it.
Fast forward to 2000 when I put on the ballot a Public Policy Question about marijuana being decriminalized. It passed by 64.5 percent of those who voted.
A few years later, another PPQ that asked if patients should have access to medicinal marijuana. It passed.
A few years later, a question about legalization. That passed.
Around the same time, 2 state wide ballot questions were asked and they passed.
In 20016, we passed Question 4, taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol. Not only here in Framingham but the entire state.
When medical use was approved in 2012 by the voters, our Board of Selectman decided they would stop medical dispensaries from coming to Framingham. They
proposed a moratorium and 4 zoning by-law changes to severely restrict the dispensaries locations. I was successful in convincing Town Meeting to reject the moratorium and the zoning changes, a major defeat for the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen and specifically, Board Chairman Dennis Giombetti.
The last year of Town Meeting, the passing of Q4, the legalization of marijuana surprised the Board of Selectmen and they pondered whether to ask Town Meeting for a moratorium and seek zoning by-law changes. Knowing full well that I would stand against anything that would slow the process down or heavily restrict it, they decided to wait until the City Council was seated, as they could almost guarantee that the Council would vote to stop it from coming to Framingham.
Which brings us to today, where the City Council has significant power to dictate their will over our community and it’s voters. The City Council Chair manipulated
the system in their favor by picking members of the Marijuana Task Force who were already against anything marijuana related. Along with members of the Police, Fire, School, Planning Board and Board of Health who are already institutionally biased against anything marijuana related. He also picked a Chair, who said at their very first meeting, “we can’t do nothing”. He picked an advocate who’s only experience with marijuana was that “he worked with musician’s” and knowing that the advocate would not be at the first 3 or 4 meetings, at which time, the Task Force voted for a moratorium.
Then comes the Board of Health, which has, in its own vacuum, determined that they (Board) have jurisdiction over retail marijuana shops to protect the public
health. Not only have they fed themselves, mis-information, propaganda, lies and fear, they plan to demand that retail shops pay licensing fees to fund the Board of Health’s work.
Instead of having trained and licensed Health Inspectors doing inspections, the Framingham Board of Health will have the Police do them. Can you imagine what CVS, Walgreens or Genzyme would say if cops knocked on their doors to do health inspections.
The Planning Board wants their revenge as well.
They took the very same overlay district that was shot down by Town Meeting in 2012 and added so much of the city, that the only places retail shops are allowed is a small stretch of Route 9 and Route 30. Two medical dispensaries are already approved and are already in line to open retail shops as well in the same location. To exclude portions of this city where liquor stores already exist is blatant obstruction.
Nothing in the ballot question required the City do anything except for a host agreement signed by the Mayor. There was no mandate, no directive, no demand, nothing to force Framingham to create such anxiety over retail pot shops.
The ballot question was clear, 20 percent of the alcohol shops would be the number of retail pot shops which is 6 in Framingham.
There was no mandate to the Framingham Board of Health, Planning Board or any other Board.
This entire saga has been created by a few mis-informed, narrow minded hard liners, who happen to be on the Democratic Town Wide Committee and have been against anything marijuana related their entire lives.
No large number of residents are lined up against pot shops. There are no legitimate reasons why so much time and effort has been devoted to trying to stop them from coming to Framingham. There’s no scientific or any other evidence that would indicate that they (pot shops) are a public health concern.
There’s no evidence to suggest any businesses would be negatively affected by having pot shops in the city.
What many in our Town feared, (before the City vote) is that all the power would be in a few hands and we are seeing that play out before our eyes. No checks and
balances like we were lead to believe, just a very select few making decisions against the majority of voters and the need of the Council Chair to get even with me. Denying the will of the voter’s will not only hurt our chances of receiving new tax revenue, but damage our democracy and expose the City to possible ligation for obstructing retail shops from coming here.
Jim Pillsbury is a former elected Framingham Town Meeting member and a former candidate for City Council in District 4.