Marijuana activists celebrated outside the Mass. State House on Dec. 15, 2016, the first day pot became legal in the Bay State. Here, Ellen Brown holds a handful of pot.
Gintautas Dumcius / MassLive

Massachusetts lawmakers this week met in West Springfield to take testimony about marijuana.

Voters in Massachusetts approved the recreational use of the drug in November. The legislature and governor have already delayed parts of the law -- and they're posed to make more changes.

That's nothing new, according to Lawrence DiCara, a lawyer and former president of the Boston City Council, who wrote about this for CommonWealth magazine.

Health factor rankings, by county, in Massachusetts.
County Health Rankings 2017 / University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute

Hampden County finished at the bottom in a public health ranking, again this year.

The report, which is published by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, ranks Hampden County 14th out of 14 Massachusetts counties in health factors -- like smoking and obesity -- and outcomes -- like premature death. 

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno speaks during a press conference on the MGM construction site on March 29, 2017.
Henry Epp / NEPR

The head of MGM Springfield said Wednesday that he's not concerned about the possible impact online gambling could have on the casino business. The potential legalization of online gambling was the subject of a hearing at the Massachusetts state house this week.

"We think brick-and-mortars can co-exist with online. But it's got to be like anything else," Mathis said. "It's got to be studied, regulated and evaluated and they need our input -- they need the industry's input."

Mathis said MGM would look to operate online gambling in Massachusetts if it becomes legal.

The campus of UMass Amherst.
File photo / The Daily Hampshire Gazette

On this episode of NEPR News Now:

  • Mixed Verdict For Former Pharmacy Executive Accused In Deadly Meningitis Outbreak (WBUR)
  • 'Balancing Act' As UMass, Holyoke Community College Respond To White Supremacist Fliers (NEPR)  
  • Refugee Nearly Freezes To Death Fleeing To Canada Via Upstate New York Woods (VPR)
  • Mount Holyoke Student Makes An Educated Guess About Trump Resisters (NEPR)

NEPR News Now is a collection of recent features, interviews and commentaries.

A map showing the fiber optic in western Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Broadband Institute

The Baker Administration is rolling out a new grant program designed to speed up broadband expansion in rural parts of Massachusetts. $20 million will be available to towns looking to build their own networks.

Before, communities were forced to work with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute on the design phase, with MBI holding back state money for that purpose.

Many town officials, like Brian Hawthorne, who chairs the broadband committee in the Hampshire County community of Plainfield, complained the whole thing was taking too long.

File photo / Daily Hampshire Gazette

At least two communities in western Massachusetts could lose federal funding from the Department of Justice. That's if the department follows through on its pledge to cut grant money from cities that do not comply with federal immigration requests to detain individuals suspected of being in the country illegally.

Last week, both Amherst and Northampton landed on a federal list of so-called "sanctuary cities." 

The police station in Pittsfield, Mass.
Adam Frenier / NEPR

The former head of the Pittsfield police union pleaded guilty Monday to stealing more than $200,000 from the organization.

The Berkshire County District Attorney's office said the thefts took place between 2008 and 2015 when Jeffrey Coco was the treasurer and later president of the police union in Pittsfield.

A police investigation concluded Coco wrote checks from a union account to either himself or his wife for personal use. He was fired from his job as a police officer in 2015. 

Gov. Charlie Baker in November of 2016.
Sam Doran / State House News Service

The failure in Washington of GOP  healthcare legislation was welcome news to Governor Charlie Baker. The Bay State Republicans said the bill would've cost Massachusetts about $1 billion a year.

As we do most Mondays, we turn to Matt Murphy of the State House News Service for an update from Beacon Hill. Matt said that even with the failure of the federal legislation, Baker's healthcare headache remains.

Millers River near Erving, Massachusetts.
jkb / Creative Commons

Athol, Massachusetts, may soon build a handicapped accessible dock on the Millers River. It will allow people to paddle to an existing accessible dock, a little downstream.

The dock would enable people to move from a wheelchair to a kayak or canoe on the Millers River.

My Irish-born grandmother lived by admonitions and apothegms. "There is nothing as virtuous as a man without the price." "Paper never refused ink." "A fool and his money are soon parted." Whenever I contemplate Ben Webster, I keep hearing Nana Reney's brogue intone another humbling rejoinder, "When the wine is in, the wit is out."