NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

February 11, 2014

Our view: Closer scrutiny needed in marijuana laws

Massachusetts is new to the medical marijuana business, and it is clear that many lessons should be learned.

One of them is the role of the “letter of non-opposition.” These letters are filed by public officials on behalf of the business seeking a license for a marijuana dispensary and/or farm. Applicants who included letters of support or non-opposition got extra points in the evaluation of their applications in the highly competitive bid to win a license.

In Amesbury, former Mayor Thatcher Kezer stirred some controversy when he sent letters of non-opposition on behalf of two businesses that sought to create medical marijuana farms in Amesbury. The applications had been kept quiet from the general public, until after the election was held. It was political calculation on the part of the then-mayor and a minority of city councilors whom he had informed. The rest of the council was surprised, and some were quite upset, to learn they had been kept in the dark.

It would have been far more open and honest to have the general public informed of the applications and a public hearing held, before giving what amounted to the city’s sign-off on the projects.

In Haverhill, a similar letter written on behalf of Healthy Pharms Inc. has raised many questions that center around James Jajuga, an influential public figure who was hired as a consultant to represent the company.

The Eagle-Tribune, sister paper of The Daily News of Newburyport, learned that key to the successful application of Healthy Pharms was a “letter of non-opposition” signed last year by City Councilor Robert Scatamacchia, then the council president. The letter states that the city of Haverhill neither supports nor opposes the siting of a medical marijuana dispensary in the community.

The rest of the City Council only learned of the Scatamacchia-signed letter when The Eagle-Tribune showed it to them last week.

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