Medical Marijuana: Legal Resources for Municipalities


In November 2012, Massachusetts voters approved Ballot Question 3, which asked “Should the state eliminate criminal and civil penalties for the use of marijuana by qualifying patients who have been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition?” As a result, MGL Chapter 369, An Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana, became law on January 1, 2013. Also known as the Massachusetts Marijuana Act, the law allows qualifying patients with certain defined debilitating medical conditions to obtain and use marijuana for medicinal purposes as approved by their physicians.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) was charged with drafting regulations for patient and caregiver registration, the operation of dispensaries, and other aspects of the law. On March 29, 2013, DPH filed draft regulations with the Secretary of the Commonwealth.  These regulations were approved on May 8, 2013 and went into effect on May 24, 2013.  DPH then administered a competitive application process for “registered marijuana dispensaries” that concluded in September of 2013.  A total of 158 of 181 applications submitted in Phase 1 of the application process were approved.  These applications will move on to Phase 2 where DPH  will review further applications and select 35 dispensaries in a competitive process.

Massachusetts communities must now be prepared to address concerns regarding the new law. The Attorney General of Massachusetts has ruled that while cities and towns may not explicitly bar dispensaries, communities can enact reasonable zoning restrictions.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) has been approached by several member communities to assist in the implementation of the new law, namely to develop regulations intended to appropriately locate dispensaries. MAPC concluded that the most efficient and supportive way to assist interested communities would be to arrange to have information about qualified legal firms posted on the internet for review and evaluation.  The ability to review and assess multiple legal firms on one site will allow communities to quickly and efficiently understand the range of available approaches to developing local regulations and implementing provisions of the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Act.

MAPC issued a Request for Information (RFI) soliciting responses from providers of legal services who were knowledgeable about the new law and could provide services to municipalities such as the drafting of ordinances and bylaws to address the law and its potential impacts on communities.  The RFI resulted in three responses which are listed below.  Any municipal leader interested in these services should contact the firms directly.

Responding Firms


Disclaimer: The sole function of MAPC in regard to this site is the provision of information solicited via a formal Request for Information or RFI.  MAPC does not have any relationship with any of the service providers listed herein nor does MAPC make any representation in regard to the information provided by the responding firm.  It is the responsibility of any interested municipality to thoroughly vet any responding firm and its background, services, and experience. MAPC shall be held harmless and fully indemnified from any action, including litigation, that may arise as a result of any contract or other relationship between a municipality or any other entity and the responding firms, including any of their subcontractors listed herein.