Pages tagged "Massachusetts"

  • Massachusetts becomes the 18th medical marijuana state; now comes the difficult work of implementation

    Earlier this month, an overwhelming sixty-three percent of Massachusetts voters approved Ballot Question 3 and, in so doing, became the country’s 18th state to pass a medical marijuana law. Massachusetts is now the latest in a growing number of states that are choosing to implement their own public health laws, regardless of any reluctance by the Obama Administration to develop a comprehensive federal policy on medical marijuana.

    But, getting Massachusetts voters to turn out in sufficient numbers to pass Ballot Question 3 was only the first step in what is expected to be a lengthy implementation process.

    The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has 120 days after the law is enacted on January 1, 2013 to design regulations that will help DPH implement the law. However, until the program is up and running, patients can still go see their physician to discuss medical marijuana and, after January 1st, can obtain a recommendation for its use. That way, patients can be protected, without delay, from any unnecessary law enforcement incursions.

    The new law restricts qualifying patients from possessing “more marijuana than is necessary for the patient’s personal, medical use, not exceeding the amount necessary for a sixty-day supply.” Therefore, in addition to developing a patient registration process in the first 120 days, DPH is tasked with using “the best available evidence” to determine what might constitute a 60-day supply of medical marijuana.

    DPH then has until January 1, 2014, one year after enactment, to license distribution facilities, called “nonprofit medical marijuana treatment centers,” thereby making medical marijuana accessible to patients throughout the state. The law requires that in the first year DPH must license at least fourteen treatment centers, one for each county in Massachusetts, but no more than five per county and no more than 35 for the entire state.

    The law tightly restricts cultivation in the state, requiring licensed treatment centers to produce their own supply and, generally, preventing patients from cultivating themselves. However, patients who can show a financial and/or physical hardship can apply to DPH to grow their own, once those regulations are established.

    Because it’s important to involve patients throughout the implementation process, Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance (MPAA), the group largely responsible for the law’s passage, will be embarking soon on a campaign to educate patients and ensure they are contributing to the development of statewide regulations. MPAA is currently preparing an FAQ for patients and concerned Massachusetts residents. Educational material will also be accessible at MPAA’s website:, and yet-to-be-scheduled public education events are being planned over the next few months.

    According to MPAA’s Matt Allen:
    We’re here to make sure that patients are fully involved in the implementation process, and since this is a public health issue we want to make sure that patients’ needs are recognized and respected.

    MPAA is also continuing to build its base of advocates in order to begin the process of working with DPH and the state legislature so that the law will work effectively. If you’re a Massachusetts resident and want to get more involved in the law’s implementation, go to the MPAA website and fill in your contact info. Together we can make the law work for Massachusetts patients!
  • Medical Marijuana Advocates Take Fight to DC

    As the Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, it’s my privilege to meet and facilitate the work of medical cannabis advocates throughout the nation. In the week before yesterday’s election, I drove all over Arkansas, visiting counties to drop off signs and connect with activists. This is an amazing movement, made up of compassionate people and patients willing to fight for their health. Last night we learned of many victories for patients who can be helped by cannabis, at both the state and federal levels. Most directly, the voters of Massachusetts overwhelmingly supported a compassionate use law, bringing the total number of medical marijuana states to 18 (plus the District of Columbia)! The results for Congress were especially positive for our movement. 95% of our Congressional champions who ran were reelected. Patients and their supporters are excited to welcome medical cannabis supporters Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin to the Senate. Fresh faces in the House and Senate mean that new champions of the cause can emerge, and Americans for Safe Access and other organizations will be working hard to provide Congressmen and women with plenty of opportunities to stand up for patients. The lead-up to last night’s results was an exciting campaign season for medical marijuana patients and advocates. In response to President Obama’s crackdown on medical marijuana states, we organized voters throughout the nation with Camp WakeUpObama, bringing our message to Obama campaign headquarters and events in nationwide and local actions. In October, the Appeals Court heard our lawsuit challenging the federal government’s policy of marijuana as “without accepted medical use,” and the forthcoming court decision may set the agenda in the coming year. We’ve further deepened our relationships with the scientific and medical community. Superstring theorist Dr. John Schwarz wrote an op-ed in favor of treating the science of marijuana fairly, and medical associations have been increasingly outspoken in opposing laws against medical marijuana, with the California Medical Association recently calling on Governor Jerry Brown to support rescheduling the drug to make it more available. We now have a second term of the Obama Administration, led by a President that has publicly expressed support for state medical marijuana laws, yet overseen an unprecedented federal attack on them. We have new state legislators who will join the nation-wide conversation happening in state capitals from coast to coast. We have new Senators and Congressman who are empowered to end the federal state divide. And an additional state now recognizes the medical need for cannabis. Though the voters of Arkansas did not pass a medical marijuana initiative, organizers in the state are fired up and ready to take the issue up with their legislature. This movement is ready for the second Obama administration. We are ready for a House with an unchanged partisan dynamic, but many new faces, Republican and Democratic, who support medical cannabis. We are ready for a Senate that includes supporters of our cause. Because of these victories, Americans for Safe Access will start the new year with a strong focus on the federal government. In February, medical cannabis advocates, researchers, doctors and legal professionals will come to together to work to end the federal-state divide over cannabis access. Our National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference will bring the fight for access from the statehouses to the Capitol. The lawmakers elected yesterday will be the ones we will meet with, and we are eager to begin the dialogue. See you in February! Steph Sherer is the Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access. This was originally posted at the Huffington Post.
  • Voters in Arkansas, Massachusetts, and Montana to Decide on Safe Access

    On Election Day this year, voters may bring about the 18th and 19th medical cannabis states and preserve safe access in an existing medical cannabis state. Arkansas' Issue 5 and Massachusetts's' Question 3 would bring about a regulated medical cannabis system to each state. By contrast, voters in Montana are voting on whether to largely restore the original medical cannabis program approved by ballot measure approved by state voters back in 2004. This year's Montana referendum, IR-124 will determine whether or not the sharp restrictions on access approved by SB 423 (2011) will be upheld.

    Below is a brief rundown of each of the 2012 statewide medical cannabis ballot measures.

    Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act, "Issue 5"

    A "YES" vote will bring safe access to Arkansas. The AMMA was organized by Arkansans for Compassionate Care and would establish a system of up to 30 non-profit dispensaries throughout the state. Patients and their caregivers who get a recommendation from their doctor with whom they have a bonafide physician-patient relationship and then obtain a registration card from state Department of Health will be protected from arrest if they meet stay within the scope of law. Eligible conditions include: Cancer, Glaucoma, positive status for Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS), Hepatitis C, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Tourette’s Disease, Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Fibromyalgia, agitation of Alzheimer’s Disease or the treatment of chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or Wasting Syndrome; peripheral neuropathy; intractable pain, which is pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment or surgical measures for more than 6 months; severe nausea; seizures, including those characteristic of Epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of Multiple Sclerosis. Patients who live more than 5 miles away from a dispensary have the option to cultivate their own cannabis.

    If passed, the AMMA will allow patients to possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable medical cannabis, or it's equivalent in other prepared forms, such as edibles, tinctures and topicals. Patients and caregivers can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of medical within a 15-day period Stems, seeds, and non-cannabis ingredients in preparations do not count to the weight under this law. Dispensaries must operate in strict accordance with state regulation. Patients who live more than 5 miles from a dispensary may choose to cultivate their own medicine if they apply for designated status from the state. For those with designated cultivation statues, they may be in possession of up to 6 flowering cannabis plants, however, they are still subject to the limit of 2.5 ounces of usable medicine in their possession at any given time. Visiting patients who have legal status as a patient in their home state would be granted reciprocity for 30 days while visiting Arkansas.

    The AMMA contains provisions that prevent discrimination by employers, landlords, schools, as well protections for those on an organ transplant list. Physicians are also protected by the law and may be not be punished criminally or face professional sanction simply for recommending medical cannabis to their patients when appropriate. Physicians may recommend medical cannabis to patients under 18 years of age when their parent or legal guardian has been given informed consent and agrees to be their caregiver.

    Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative, "Question 3"

    A "YES" vote will bring safe access to Massachusetts. Question 3 would allow qualifying patients and caregivers in Massachusetts who possess a valid state registration card to be protected from arrest if they are in possession of no more than 60-day supply of medicine. While a "60-day supply" is not determined by the law, the state Department of Public Health would be required to determine what a presumptive 60-day supply is within 4 months of passage of the initiative, however, patients who have a medical need for a greater 60-day supply than what the state declares for the presumptive minimum may possess whatever is medically necessary and is supported by evidence. While several conditions are specifically mentioned by the ballot language, the law would also permit for "other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician," meaning doctors, not bureaucrats, will decide when cannabis is most appropriate for medical therapy.

    The measure would allow up 35 non-profit dispensaries in the state, with a minimum of 1 per county, and a max of 5 per county. Patients who can demonstrate hardship need, such as financial, physical incapacity, or lack of reasonable proximity to a dispensary may apply for the right to cultivate cannabis at their own residence.

    If a patient or caregiver engages in fraud by using their medical cannabis registration card, they are subject to a $500 fine and up to 6 months in a house of correction. However, if misuse of a card includes illegal distribution, it can carry a 5-year prison sentence.

    Montana Medical Marijuana Veto Referendum, "IR-124"

    This situation in Montana is a bit confusing, as a "NO" vote on IR-124 will help restore the greatest level of safe access in Montana. A "NO" vote on this statewide referendum would repeal SB 423 (2011), which stripped away I-148, the 2004 voter approved medical cannabis law which permitted dispensaries. Patients for Reform, Not Repeal are encouraging patients to vote "NO" on IR-124.

    Until recently, a court injunction upheld the 2004 voter approved law, however, since the September 11th state supreme court ruling, the state has begun to enforce certain aspect of SB 423. Most notably, the state has begun to sending letters to caregivers informing them that they may only cultivate medicine for 3 patients. Another damaging aspect of SB 423 is its heighten requirements for patients suffering from chronic pain, as they must jump through several additional and burdensome hoops to acquire and maintain legal status as medical cannabis patient. Moreover, the dispensary system is effectively shut down by SB 423, as no medical cannabis can be exhanged for anything of value. As if that weren't bad enough, SB 423 could result in a chilling effect for doctors who are willing to recommend medical cannabis, as they now are subject to investigation should they recommend cannabis to more than 25 of their patients.

    The two major gubernatorial candidates have weighed in on the IR-124 question. It has been reported that current Attorney General Steve Bullock will vote against IR-124 while his Republican challenger, Rick Hill plans to vote in favor of IR-124.

    In order to restore safe access in Montana, patients and their loved ones must remember that a "NO" vote is necessary on IR-124.

    Mike Liszewski is ASA's Policy Director.
  • Medical Marijuana Reading - June 11th 2012

    Catch up on the latest news about medical marijuana throughout the county.
    • Feds Attack California’s Medical Marijuana Trade - Again (Reuters)
    • Mass. Medical Marijuana Opponents Mobilize Efforts (Bloomberg)
    • Report: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Not Linked to Neighborhood Crime (US News and World Report)
    • Cedars-Sinai Again Denies Transplant to Medical Marijuana Patient (Opposing Views)
    • DEA Raids Sacramento Pot Shop (SacBee)
    • New blog by Hearst Media - Smell the Truth.
  • Momentum in Massachusetts

    Guest blog by MMPA Organizer Matt Allen - In Massachusetts, optimism and ambition are high among medical marijuana advocates as the new legislative session is starting up.  Turnout at our stakeholder's meeting November (facilitated by ASA Executive Director Steph Shrer) exceeded expectations, helped us build connections amongst one another, and left everyone motivated to take action and work together to pass medical marijuana reform in the next two years.  In addition the meeting provided Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance with valuable information about the hopes and concerns of the medical marijuana advocacy community that we were able to relate to Chairman Smizik, lead sponsor of the medical marijuana bill that will be filed, and a long time supporter of our cause.  Individual patients and family members who want to see Massachusetts catch up to other states in the region like Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maine, are now contacting their state reps and asking them to cosponsor the medical marijuana bill that will be filed next week.  We accomplished a lot last year through outreach at community events and lobbying legislators as well as seeking support from other public health groups.  But our coalition wasn't even founded until the middle of last session.  This time we are organized and will be able to present a unified grassroots presence at the state house from day one.  As the organizer for MPAA I've already had the opportunity to join some patients on visits to their reps to discuss the issue, and it has been awesome!  We are getting the message out that this is a real public health issue and that its wrong to deny patients their medicine.  Legislators are listening, and the public is behind us.  And we are growing!  Visit us at to follow the campaign in Massachusetts, or e-mail [email protected] if you're a Massachusetts resident who wants to get more involved.