WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — To give town and state health departments time to best handle medicinal marijuana, the Westborough Board of Selectmen voted Monday night to draft a letter asking the state Legislature to delay implementation of the law.
"I think the delay would be in everybody's best interest," said Selectman George Barrette.
Several other area towns have made similar requests.
The selectmen will draft a letter based on a template from the Town of Sandwich, Mass., and will suggest the implementation be delayed for six months.
"Let's do this thing right," Selectman Ian Johnson said. "Yes, it was voted for, but the worst thing we can do is implement something that doesn't work."
The selectmen heard from Planning Board Chair Lester Hensley who, along with the rest of the board, has been studying the law over the past month to prepare a bylaw.
Hensley said the Planning Board hopes to have a draft bylaw ready for advertisement by its Thursday meeting.
He noted concerns about the vague wording in the state law in terms of qualifications for prescriptions along with the broad outlook the law provides on home growing and dispensaries.
"Let's act so as to be in control, and not have to react to what does or doesn't happen," he said, noting that several other states that have implemented medicinal marijuana laws have requested similar delays.
Hensley highlighted the "precautionary principle" to the board, which is used when a consensus cannot be reached on an issue that could be harmful to the town.
In essence, the principle dictates that on an issue when investigation reveals a plausible risk, the town must act in the best interest of its inhabitants. Hensley said there is reason to believe negative ramifications could emerge from the law as it stands.
"The evidence for a plausible risk is there, and I think it behooves us to act from a precautionary perspective to ensure that we have a closely-written law," he said.
The letter will be sent to the state Legislature, but no decision will be made until it reconvenes after the start of the new year. Portions of the state law are scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, but that can be delayed until the Planning Board's proposed bylaw is acted upon at an advertised hearing.