As most of you know, Massachusetts passed a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana (MMJ) last November 6. Although we were optimistic it would pass, we were very pleased when 63% of the voters, nearly 1.9 million people voted for this.
The Massachusetts Medical Society (which has over 24,000 physician members) had been against the ballot initiative from the campaign’s infancy. I attended their biannual meeting last November 30, where they were voting on whether to recommend delaying implementation of the ballot initiative, and if they should recommend physicians turn in other physicians to the licensing board if they recommended medical cannabis.
With the help of Steph Sherer, we came up with a forceful argument to gain their support. I presented the “Conant vs. Walters” legal decision, which protects physicians against legal action if they recommend cannabis to patients. As well as info about the physician education course, which is taught by world-class physicians, that ASA has put together. I said "the only education most, if not all of the physicians in the room have on medical cannabis is what they learned from smoking it in their dorm rooms during college." There was laughter from the audience, but my point was well understood. I further noted that the Massachusetts Medical Society has an obligation to its members to educate them about this medicine.
Thankfully, my words were heeded that day and the Massachusetts Medical Society voted against both delaying implementation as well as recommending their members turn in other doctors who recommend medical cannabis.
The November ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana required regulations be issued by May 1, to implement the law. This deadline will most likely be missed due to complexity of trying to finalize rules. Though the laws went into effect at the beginning of the year and patients can grow a limited amount, dispensaries will not be allowed to operate until regulations are set.
I met with the officials at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, on January 22, regarding this issue. They were happy to receive the AHPA guidelines and even requested additional information on an array of issues. I was especially happy because these regulators were genuinely grateful for the help and information we were offering. I left the meeting with the impression that they are working carefully and thoughtfully to create a medical cannabis program that will well serve patients’ needs in our state.
Although there will always be those that vehemently oppose safe access, my experiences working on implementation in Massachusetts have shown me that so long as you are truthful, passionate about the cause, and assume best intentions, things have a way of moving forward in a positive direction.