WBUR

Mass. Communities Seek Delay In Medical Marijuana Law

BOSTON — In just over two weeks it will be legal in Massachusetts for people with certain medical conditions to use marijuana. But is the state ready?

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which will oversee the growth and distribution of medical marijuana, has until the end of April to write regulations. But the new law has some businesses jumping at the opportunity while local officials are seeking to slow down the process.

CannaMed, a California based for-profit medical marijuana evaluation center run by doctors with ties to Boston, has already rented space in Framingham.

“We’ve looked at a number of locations in the Boston area. That’s where we ended up. No particular reason,” said CannaMed regional manager Richard Tav.

CannaMed plans to open its fifth location in Massachusetts in January.

“We are hoping that we’ll be welcomed and we’ll be able to offer an alternative option to a patient in need,” Tav said.

The clinic owners believe they won’t need to wait for regulations from the state because they will not be dispensing marijuana. Clinic doctors will be evaluating patients’ medical records and deciding whether to recommend them for a medical marijuana card. That card will have to be approved and issued by the state, similar to a driver’s license. Any doctor can write a recommendation to use marijuana, but many choose not to.

“What we’re seeing are primary physicians that are referring patients to us because that’s what CannaMed is, a specialty in this industry,” Tav said.

CannaMed is one of what will be many businesses opening in response to the new law.

“It worries me enormously,” said state Sen. John Keenan of Quincy, the chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

“It will be during the first 120 days after its effective date there’ll be a situation where anything will go,” Keenan said. “All that somebody needs to be able to possess marijuana is a medical certification which can be obtained from a physician not necessarily from Massachusetts.”

Sen. Keenan is writing a bill to delay the law. The measure approved by voters in November allows as many as 35 dispensaries to open next year, with a maximum of five per county. The public health department will regulate how the dispensaries operate, but won’t control where the centers go. That’s left local officials scrambling and asking for more time.

The Massachusetts Municipal Association, a group of more than 200 cities and towns headed by Geoff Beckwith, has asked for a six-month delay in the law.

“Some communities may wish to say they prefer not to have and don’t want to have dispensaries in their community,” Beckwith said. “Others might want to have them located in an area near medical facilities.”

Many towns won’t have the chance to approve dispensaries because most town meetings aren’t held until the spring.

“Here we have something that was overwhelming passed by the voters and we can’t get any information whatsoever from Department of Public Health where they stand on even the progress of their regulations at this point,” said Michael Hugo, chair of the Framingham Board of Health.

Many state and local officials say the new law is vague. Sen. Keenan says his bill would create a clear system where a person would obtain marijuana in the same way a patient gets prescription medicine.

“Where the physician would authorize use on a secure prescription pad and perhaps do that through courier and mail so that we don’t have dispensaries in the communities and we don’t have cultivation occurring in the communities,” Keenan said.

At least two towns have voted already to ban dispensaries — Wakefield and Reading. Other communities are considering similar moves. But lawmakers say it’s unclear if the medical marijuana law gives cities and towns the authority to say no.

Earlier Coverage:

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  • MikeParent

    What’s all the concern and fear about a substance that is safer than the swill that’s sold in Thousands of Locations throughout the Commonwealth?

    FACT Marijuana is less addictive and less harmful than Caffeine, let alone alcohol. Here’s the Science;.
    Dr Henningfield is a former NIDA Staffer;.
    Addictiveness of Marijuana – ProCon.org.
    http://www.procon.org/view.background-resource.php?resourceID=1492

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001754590001 BIack Jack

    Id say u’d better get busy- Chop chop.. pun intended.

  • m577a2

    I don’t understand what everyone is so afraid of. Marijuana is a harmless medicine, so why is anyone worried about it? Seems that really the only ones worried about it are the ones who stand to lose money once everyone realizes that the lies and propaganda the government, law enforcement, and abuse counselors have been spewing for over 70 years are revealed as just that, lies and propaganda. A harmless plant has got these people frothing at the mouth because they might lose funding. Guess they should’ve been telling the truth all along………. Legalizing marijuana and shutting down the cartels would make America a safer place, so why are the police against it? No more black market prices for a plant that grows in your yard, say goodbye to the crime associated with marijuana! Sorry cops, counselors, prisons, America’s safety is more important than your paycheck.

  • kevin_hunt

    The DEA has stated that FDA aproved opiate pain pills are their #1 priority because of the overdose epidemic.

    Marijuana has not caused an overdose death in 5,000 years. Time for the Mass legislature to stop dragging their feet. I don’t see how Keenan’s idea is going to work with sending marijuana through the U.S. mail. That sounds like it would be inviting trouble from the USPS and the feds.

  • wilderness dude

    its been a non-criminal offense in MA for 4 years

  • malcolmkyle

    Prohibitionists literally don’t give a damn about the welfare of individual citizens. That’s you, me, and everyone you care about. They don’t care even when their policy means destroying the economy or bank-rolling criminals and terrorists. The prohibitionist onslaught appears to be simply a war directed at all of us.

    America, it is time to wake up! Prohibition is a cultural and economic assault on your money, on your careers, on your ability to put food on the table, have shelter, cloth yourself, and even survive or self-medicate. The fiscal cliff isn’t the crisis—Prohibitionist control over America’s politics and government is!

    During alcohol prohibition, all profits went to enrich criminals and corrupt politicians. Young men died every day on inner-city streets while battling over turf. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have gone on education, etc. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally, the economy collapsed. Sound familiar?

    Prohibitionists, and their criminal friends who live in a crack-house called Congress, are having a ball and it’s all on our tab.

  • Sandydog

    Don’t worry MA, CO and WA legalized cannabis and the sky hasn’t fallen. Many states have had MMJ for years, most problems are created by the prohibitionist. The more I think about it, the fear seems goofy, comical. I mean seriously, what do you base it on?

  • Leah

    Wakefield’s town meeting that dealt with how to handle a medical marijuana dispensary was attended by just over 150 people. After Election Day, I took a look at how the questions panned out in town, and was interested to find it had passed (not by an outstanding margin, but it still passed).

    It all comes down to how passionate you are about making sure your voice is heard in town… only a few months ago, thousands of people showed up multiple nights to debate the merits of a new middle school, yet 150 people decided on the town budget and banned a medical marijuana dispensary in one meeting. Worth thinking about. I’m planning to be a town meeting regular.

  • http://twitter.com/ChuckFarley69 Chuck Farley

    We intelligent types here in AZ voted medicinal cannabis legal in 1996. The backwards hicks that ran our state then (and still do) killed the law. We legalized again later, they killed it again. We got tired of them deciding THEY knew what was best for US. We then approved the Voter Protection Act, which protected initiatives passed by the people. They can no longer veto, amend or repeal anything passed by THE PEOPLE. It took us passing a law to make them listen to us. Not that they do. Our idiot governor, our stone-aged legislature and those in power here hate it with a passion, but that’s what it took to wrest the power back from THEM. You may want to look into something like that there in Mass. The entrenched power elite want things to be run as they say and to hell with what the people want. For your Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, prohibition is a massive cash cow. Just feel lucky that the private prison “industry” isn’t as big there as it is here. A massive “industry” of imprisoning Americans. Big money to be made there. Big money breeds corruption. Our state is as corrupt as any out there. Don’t let those numbskulls screw you over.

  • AnnOnaMice

    You have to wonder how connected or sympathetic to drug dealers, gangs, and violent criminals the Municipal Association and these elected officials really are.

    Why doesn’t this MINORITY of people simply respect the will of the voters? If they can’t do that, let them resign.

    What town or city doesn’t need a few million dollars in tax revenue every year?

    60% of voters approved the measure. It’s LEGAL already. The law is in place. People already have received recommendations. Why can’t the “special needs” minority accept the law?

    Let’s take ALL the controversy out of it. Remove all doubt… leave no one to question the meaning of what it all means…. Recreational LEGALIZATION in the Commonwealth 2016!!!

  • http://twitter.com/ChuckFarley69 Chuck Farley

    “The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”

    - Carl Sagan

  • http://twitter.com/420_college 420 College

    what I can say about this is that…is that, this is not the democratic process our founding fathers had in mind when they allowed to let the people write and create laws. Now, every state it seems like is on the way to passing medical marijuana laws, so where does that leave the fed gov if every state legalizes and it is still illegal under federal law??? http://420college.rog

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jose-Gonzales/100003694111815 Jose Gonzales

    I bet government officials are laughing at each delay they create.

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