Our Opinion: A doable pot clinic plan


Manna Wellness Incorporated appears to have come up with a sound plan to run a medical marijuana dispensary in Pittsfield outside of downtown. As these facilities, whose creation was triggered by voters last November when they backed the sale of medical marijuana to approved customers on a ballot initiative, begin the process putting down roots in the city and state, there is now a question as to whether the federal government may interfere in some operations.

Julia Germaine and Nial DeMena of the nonprofit firm discussed their proposal Wednesday during a meeting that is part of a community discussion series run by Donna Todd Rivers. Ms. Germaine said the facility would include sections for marijuana growing, processing and sale. Mr. DeMena, who will serve as operations manager, said this would be the first "green" medical marijuana facility in the nation, in keeping with the Berkshire environment, and would be state-of-the-art in terms of accommodating patients.

Nearly a year after the sale of medical marijuana was approved in the state, the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers has advised its 36 federally funded facilities to not issue patient marijuana certifications because use is still illegal under federal law. This advice, issued Tuesday, according to a report in The Boston Globe, did not specifically say that the federal government would prosecute the health centers, but it may have a chilling effect on the centers and on doctors. This warning would presumably not have an effect on the Manna clinic.

In August, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter to federal prosecutors noting, according to a Globe story quoting the memo, that the department's ability to enforce federal drug laws includes "federal laws relating to marijuana, regardless of state law." But Justice did not say that it would actually enforce those laws when it comes to the manufacture and sale of medical marijuana.

The Berkshire Eagle expressed its concerns about medical marijuana clinics last November when it chose not to endorse the ballot initiative, but it passed overwhelmingly and the only issue now is how to make them work properly in Massachusetts, which is the 20th state to legalize the sale of medical marijuana. Manna Wellness appears determined to do just that, and there is solid evidence that medical marijuana has benefits for those suffering from a variety of diseases, including cancer, ALS, MS and HIV-AIDS. Whether the federal government's hints about prosecution are for show or for real is debatable, but they are maddeningly vague and counterproductive. If Washington doesn't know its mind on this issue it should stay on the sidelines.


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