Wednesday's ruling by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley that cities and towns cannot ban local dispensaries for marijuana was inevitable, as there is no legal basis for communities ignoring the results of a state referendum they don't care for. It vindicates the efforts of communities like Pittsfield to get a jump on the game in advance of the Department of Public Health's announcement that draft regulations for marijuana clinics will be issued on March 29.
Wakefield residents voted to ban the dispensaries a week after the referendum question creating them was approved November 6 by 63 percent of state voters. Communities can't unilaterally decide to ignore state laws without inviting chaos. The Eagle expressed considerable concern about the enforcement of the law and other ramifications last November, but now that it has passed, the issue is making sure it works for those with illnesses while not adversely affecting a community.
In a separate ruling, the attorney general approved Burlington's moratorium on the clinics until June 30, 2014, but there is no point in kicking the can down the road. The Bianchi administration last month issued a series of guidelines, among them the issuance of a special permit by the Zoning Board of Appeals and restrictions on how close clinics can be to residences, schools and churches, to the City Council. While the clinics present certain problems for communities, if set up properly they could help those suffering from cancer and other serious illnesses.