The top story of 2011, the long-debated passage of an expanded gambling law, fell to the bottom of the charts in 2012, but still cracked the Top 10 as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission got to work trying to turn a law from words on paper into actual casino establishments. It’s proving more complicated, and time consuming, than maybe anyone expected. After Beacon Hill leaders came together and agreed on three resort-style casinos spread across the state and one slot parlor, Gov. Deval Patrick got down to negotiations with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe for a tribal gaming compact to bring a casino to Taunton, and the Gaming Commission, chaired by Stephen Crosby, started the process of hiring staff, consultants and setting the parameters for applicants to bid on licenses. The Legislature approved a compact with the Wampanoag, but the feds rejected the terms forcing the administration and tribal leaders back to the negotiating table. Casino developer Steve Wynn’s plan to partner with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on a Foxborough casino fell apart when voters in that town shunned the idea of casino, and Gaming Commission members tried to stoke a little competition within eastern Massachusetts where for a while it appeared Suffolk Downs might be the only suitors. Applications for licenses are now due in mid-January. Actual casinos are still a long ways off.
9) MEDICAL MARIJUANA SANCTIONED BY VOTERS
First, Bay State voters decided to decriminalize possession of under an ounce of marijuana. Now, Massachusetts is poised to become the 18th state to allow medical marijuana to be sold within its borders. Voters overwhelming approved a ballot question sanctioning up to 35 medical marijuana dispensaries to be licensed and regulated by the Department of Public Health. The measure passed with 63 percent in favor to just 37 percent opposed. The law, set to take effect on Jan. 1, would allow patients suffering from cancer, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other afflictions to receive a certification to possess and use marijuana to treat their symptoms. The DPH is currently working to develop regulations to control the implementation of the law, while some lawmakers are seeking a delay to provide more time to figure out how to safeguard against abuse and prevent the drug from getting into the hands of those who don’t have a medical need for it. While some out-of-state doctors with experience in dispensing medical marijuana are already moving to the state to capitalize on the new law, some municipal leaders have resorted to changing their zoning bylaws to prevent dispensaries from opening in their city and town. The implementation of the legalized medical marijuana promises to be a storyline to watch for 2013.