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Geneseo Republic - Geneseo, IL
A blog 'for independent minds'
It’s still the ’60s in Framingham
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion ...
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Political Views
Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion section of the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass. As such, our focus starts there and spreads to include Massachusetts, the nation and the world. Since successful blogs create communities of readers and writers, we hope the \x34& Co.\x34 will also come to include you.
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By Rick Holmes
Nov. 5, 2013 11:15 a.m.



In Northborough, there’s a store on Rte. 9 that has been selling bongs, pipes, vaporizers and what people used to call “drug paraphenalia” (along with a lot of sex products) for years, apparently without harassment by local authorities.  A few years ago, Massachusetts voters decriminalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Last year, we approved legal sale of marijuana for medical purposes, and the state is in the process of licensing marijuana dispensaries. It’s already legal for people with a patient ID card to smoke weed – presumably in a pipe or bong or rolling papers available at their local retail outlet.

An entrepreneur from Northborough understandably figured Framingham’s retail center could support a business selling marijuana-related items, so she rented space on Rte. 9. She called her store “The Grateful Head,” and I noticed it last summer when meeting some friends for Chinese food next door. I asked the man in the store if they’d had any trouble with town officials, and he pointed to the town business licenses on the wall and said everyone had been very helpful. “They’re all your age,” he said, “and they get off on the Grateful Dead hook.”

But not all of them.  A few weeks later, Det. Matt Gutwill, channeling his inner Joe Friday, busted The Grateful Head’s owner and two employees and seized its inventory. The MWDN story on their arraignment reads like a flashback. Gutwill testified about sending two “confidential informants” into the store, where they purchased marijuana pipes.

One of the employees told police he was friends with Framingham Selectman Jason Smith, according to a police report, and that Smith was supportive of the store.  Along with the town licenses on the wall, that indicates one arm of town government doesn’t know what the other arm is doing – and makes me wonder if Gutwill’s bust was a rogue operation. It also illustrates something we’ve been hearing about Framingham for a long time: That the politicians make a big deal about being business-friendly, while the town departments treat business owners like criminal suspects.

I’ll grant that there are likely some contradictions between old Massachusetts laws and the current more permissive attitudes and laws concerning marijuana. In cities and towns across the state, police have used common sense and chosen not to prosecute people for selling bongs and vaporizers.  If Framingham or anyone else wanted to test those laws with a civil suit and wanted to spend taxpayers’ money on it, go ahead.  But criminal charges for selling pipes?

Framingham’s narcs are operating in the wrong decade. Make that the wrong century.

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