Public Safety and Awareness Meeting raises medical marijuana issue

Director of Public Works Bob Knox, Mayor Gary Christenson, Lieutenant Kevin Molis, and Assistant Fire Chief Jack Colangeli at the recent Public Safety and Awareness Meeting at the OCRC. (Advocate photo by Juhi Varma)

By Juhi Varma


The mayor’s latest Public Safety and Awareness Meeting took place at the Outreach Community and Reform Center (OCRC) on Saturday, November 17. “I wanted to try and reach out as much as possible to the different groups throughout the city,” the mayor said. “Eventually we’re going to other houses of worship.”

Mayor Gary Christenson, Lieutenant Kevin Molis, Assistant Fire Chief Jack Colangeli, and Director of Public Works Bob Knox met and interacted with members of the OCRC, a mosque located at 22 Pleasant Street. Public safety meetings usually take place in different schools around Malden, or at City Hall Plaza. “Now that we have just a year under our belt, we wanted to reach out beyond the traditional means, to try and touch…many members,” Christenson continued. “We’re going to meet with the seniors next week. We’ve done schools in just about all the wards.”

Colangeli briefed the audience on the activities of the fire department and asked that people keep an eye on burning candles, decorative electric lights, and heating devices during the festive season. “Normally I talk about what’s going on with the fire department,” he said. “But thankfully, things have been relatively quiet fire-wise. During this time of year we see an increase in certain kinds of fires; sometimes people overload their extension cords. We want you to be aware that…overloading outlets for lights and candles can be very dangerous. Get a smoke detector, these are $8 to $10 devices and save a lot of lives.”

Molis discussed crime prevention and safety tips with the audience, reminding them to keep their homes and cars locked at all times.

The meeting was followed by the usual question and answer session; one question prompted a long discussion of the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative. “I would like to ask about Question 3, the legalization of marijuana,” said a Linden resident. “I can’t believe that the majority said yes—it won by 63 percent,” she continued. “The question is, what does it mean in our community? Will there be so many shops selling it, handling it? What does it mean for our kids, the high school students, the generation to come?”

“This is something that will have to be worked out in the future, with how it can be regulated, and how it can be dispensed,” replied Molis. “It’s medical marijuana; we’ll have to assume that there will be some mechanism with a physician saying that a person needs it. Now you bring up another point: Is it through a pharmacy or a store? Those are all the difficult questions—passing the law sometimes is the easiest part, and the aftermath is the difficult part. Working out how medical marijuana is dispensed is something done by agencies at the state and federal level before it trickles down to us, but I think the tenor of your question was the general concern that marijuana laws seem to be changing. Your concerns are shared by some very good people, the ones who opposed the question years ago and made it a civil infraction. I will tell you that the city has passed ordinances with regard to the improper use of marijuana in public that are stricter than the state law. Selling of marijuana illegally is something the police actively investigate, and there have been a lot of arrests.”

“The city has been very aggressive in the past when ballot questions or laws have passed,” said the mayor. “We’ve taken the approach to do what we can in the city, without conflicting with the state or federal law.”

“Many years ago, before policemen became policemen, they were called ‘watchmen,’” Molis said towards the end of the meeting. “I’m going to bring up a quote from a Psalm. I l know that the Islamic faith also embraces the Psalms. I believe it was David writing to Solomon, talking about the righteousness of the work of Solomon, that it was important that the people pray, so that God would watch over the city. Before President Kennedy died on November 22, 1963, he was supposed to give a speech to the Chamber of Commerce in Dallas; he died before he got the chance. And the last thing he was going to say that day was ask that people pray so they could have God watch over the work of the watchmen, the watchmen of liberty and freedom and people’s protection, kind of like a policeman does, and he quoted Psalm 127: ‘Unless the lord watches over the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain.’ So with your prayers and your devotion, I think that the work we do will be blessed, and not be in vain.”