Progress in Massachusetts
Following overwhelming approval of the medical marijuana ballot initiative in November, Massachusetts’ patients are waiting for safe access to their medicine as the state proceeds with implementation. We aren’t there yet, but so far progress is continuing in the right direction, thanks to the work of patient advocates from around the state. There have been a number of exciting advancements over the last several weeks.
The Attorney General issued a ruling that cities and towns cannot ban medical treatment centers from opening. Despite the overwhelming passage of the initiative that won in 350 out of 351 communities, a small minority of municipalities had attempted to forbid treatment centers from operating within their jurisdictions, largely based on unfounded fears about how treatment centers will work. Supporters within these towns have been frustrated with local officials’ attempting to overturn the will of the voters by passing bans. The AG has decided that these efforts are not legal, based on the reasoning that if one town can ban treatment centers, they all can. If that happened, implementation of the medical marijuana law would be impossible, and therefore these local bans are not permitted under state law. However, the AG also found that cities and towns can pass temporary moratoriums or zoning ordinance to address treatment center siting, as long as they do not ban the centers outright.
In other important developments, we saw an impressive turn out from patients at three recently convened listening sessions where the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) was soliciting input as the agency works on writing the regulations that will determine how the medical marijuana program will work. We thank Dr. Lauren Smith, Acting Commissioner of DPH, and her staff for making the time to travel around the state and listen to patients and others on issues regarding implementation.
The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance (MPAA) remains committed to making sure that patients, their family members, and medical professionals have a voice in the process. Once again advocates in Massachusetts have risen to the occasion, and we’ve proven nothing is more powerful than patients coming forward to speak about their experience. Read media coverage to hear directly from patient advocates at the Worcester session, Boston session, and Holyoke session.
Americans for Safe Access (ASA), (through their board member, Karen Munkacy MD) has been working closely with MPAA and DPH. ASA has presented information on patient access, physician education, patient education, recommendations for dispensaries (written in collaboration with the American Herbal Products Association) and what is a reasonable 60 day supply of MMJ.
We expect draft regulations to be released at the end of March, and then there will be one or two public hearing(s) around April 19. The month of April will be a critical period for patients and others to formally submit testimony to DPH on how implementation should be carried out.
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