Friday, October 16, 2015

Hypocrisy On Medicial Marijuana In Foxboro

My latest Sun Chronicle column:

GOUVEIA: A sad display of hypocrisy in Foxboro

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Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2015 10:30 pm
The concept of medical marijuana has slowly gained acceptance throughout Massachusetts and much of the country. But allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in suburban communities? Not so much.
The latest example of this was in Foxboro, where selectmen quite unsurprisingly killed an attempt to locate a facility on the site of a long-abandoned gas station along Route 1 near Gillette Stadium. They had a lot of reasons for doing so, but the one they kept coming back to could be summed up as “We don’t want it.”
And under the convoluted and complicated new law allowing such facilities in Massachusetts, they have that right. They can simply say “No” and — with or without good and valid reason —- act as guardians of the gate. They can keep this “gateway drug” off the main street of their community and return it to the back roads, private homes and public parks where it is peddled and utilized every day.
Imagine if selectmen had such unbridled power and authority when it came to locating drug stores in their towns? Sorry CVS, we don’t think you should bring those dangerous and addictive drugs into our community where people can see them. Why don’t you go next door, or perhaps put your store in the dark corner of an industrial zone where we don’t have to look at it?
After all, you deal in dangerous and addictive prescription drugs. Depressants, stimulants, tranquilizers, and other strong medical compounds. Some argue there are more people addicted to painkillers and pills than to marijuana.
And you hand them out over a counter, not far from our schools, churches and bars — er, I mean, community gathering places. That has to be a threat to the safety of any town.
Dare we think what might happen if a marijuana dispensary were to be allowed in a visible area? Imagine all those sick cancer patients dragging their prescriptions downtown and hanging out on the street corner, hoping to score some type of pot bonus. Is that what any respectable selectman wants in their pristine community?
Sure, Foxboro residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of medical marijuana when it was on the ballot last year. But that didn’t mean they actually wanted it HERE. And as Selectman Virginia Coppola made quite clear, numbers and votes really don’t mean anything as far as she is concerned.
“You say 60 percent of the town of Foxboro voted for it? Well, say, 98 percent of the people who spoke to me are against this. That’s a little higher than 60 percent,” said Coppola. “You can make percentages say anything you want.”
So that must be how it works in Foxboro. It’s not enough to cast your vote, you also have to speak to Selectman Coppola if you really want to have an impact on the final result. Clearly, 98 percent of those who spoke about the issue to the selectman must be more than the 63 percent of those who actually cast ballots.
That’s a lot of talking.
But this is not a unique situation. What happened in Foxboro is pretty typical of most communities. Local officials, and a lot of the residents they represent, tend to be afraid of what they do not understand, of what is new and different. That is normal and predictable.
But sick people should not have to be made to feel ashamed when they turn to marijuana for pain management. Their prescription for this drug is no different from that of the person picking up their Percocet at the Walgreens pharmacy counter. The only real difference is the misguided perception of those who view it otherwise.
If you can have 20 or 30 establishments serving liquor in a community, you can certainly have a respectable place for people with chronic pain or illness to pick up their legal drugs. Allowing Rite-Aid to fill prescriptions for Oxycodone is okay, but a medical marijuana facility is a problem?
This elitist attitude prevalent in many suburban towns needs to change. A community is only as strong as its ability to serve the most vulnerable of its citizens.
This is the kind of result you get when leaders decline to actually lead. It’s a sad display of hypocrisy.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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