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Massachusetts: Medical Marijuana Rules Dramatically Overhauled

MassachusettsRx420

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Massachusetts health authorities on Friday moved to dramatically overhaul the license granting process for medical marijuana dispensaries, hoping to streamline the process and remove subjectivity and politics.

Regulators from Governor Charlie Baker's administration said the new process gets rid of the secrecy they claimed was prevalent under former Governor Deval Patrick's administration, reports Kay Lazar at The Boston Globe. Controversay about the previous system of licensure inspired more than two dozen lawsuits.

Massachusetts patients still have no safe access at dispensaries, two and a half years after voters approved medicinal cannabis. Fifteen dispensaries have already been licensed, but none has opened.

“This change creates a more streamlined, efficient, and transparent process that allows the Commonwealth to maintain the highest standards of both public safety and accessibility,” said Dr. Monica Bharel, the state’s public health commissioner.

Under the new guidelines, dispensaries will be licensed similarly to other health care facilities such as pharmacies. Each application will be judged using clear guidelines and will move forward when the applying company meets the overhauled standards, according to officials. The old system involved scoring, essentially pitting applicants against each other.

Massachusetts Cracks Down On Medical Marijuana Caregivers

MassachusettsMarijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is cracking down on the state's booming cottage industry of medical marijuana caregivers who have been selling cannabis to meet the demand created by the state's medical marijuana law, adopted 18 months ago.

The state has sent letters to more than 1,300 patients, along with 17 caregivers, warning them that state regulations may prohibit any caregiver from selling marijuana to more than one patient, according to David Kibbe, spokesman for the Department of Health, report Shelley Murphy and Kay Lazar at The Boston Globe.

The caregivers are the only legal avenue for Massachusetts patients to buy medical marijuana until storefront dispensaries start to open -- and that won't happen before November at the earliest. Many of the caregivers advertise on the Internet.

The action angered many patients who rely on cannabis to relieve their symptoms.

"I have been put in a terrible situation," said David Tamarin, 41, a lawyer from North Andover whose doctor authorized him to use medical marijuana for chronic back pain and anxiety. Tamarin said he was outraged by the letter telling him he had to find another caregiver -- one who was not serving any other patients.

"The legalization of medical marijuana should make it easier, not more difficult, for a patient to get his medicine," Tamarind said.

Massachusetts: 7 Doctors Warned By DEA For Being Involved With Medical Marijuana

DEA-MaskedAgentsRaid

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Less than two weeks after the U.S. House passed a measure that would defund Drug Enforcement Administration raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, reports have begun to surface of DEA agents intimidating physicians trying to work with state-legal dispensaries in Massachusetts.

At least four more Massachusetts doctors recently received visits from the DEA agents, bringing to seven the number who got an unexpected ultimatum from the DEA for authorizing patients to use medical marijuana.

Federal investigators told the doctors they would have to "sever ties" with medical marijuana dispensaries or risk losing their license to prescribe medications, reports Kay Lazar at MThe Boston Globe.

Already, some doctors have been forced to resign their advisory positions with dispensaries, which Massachusetts voters agreed in 2012 to allow.

A spokeswoman at the DEA's headquarters in Washington, D.C., refused requests for an interview. The agency on Friday released a terse statement.

Massachusetts: Doctors Advised Not To Authorize Patients For Medical Marijuana

NoMarijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Massachusetts has a new medical marijuana law, approved by a vast majority of voters last November. But doctors at community health centers have been advised not to authorize any more of their more than 638,000 patients for medical marijuana, because the centers are afraid they'll lose their federal funding.

The Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers has advised its 36 federally funded facilities to stop issuing patient marijuana authorizations under state law because cannabis use remains illegal for any purpose under federal law, reports Kay Lazar at The Boston Globe.

Health center physicians who authorize patients for medical marijuana could be committing a "potential violation of federal law and could result in legal and financial exposure for community health centers," according to a spineless statement from the League.

Voters approved a ballot initiative last November, making Massachusetts one of 20 medical marijuana states (plus the District of Columbia). Federally funded community health centers in other states have also advised doctors against authorizing patients to use marijuana.

Massachusetts: Most Marijuana Dispensary Applicants Approved In First Round

MassachusettsMarijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Most of the 181 applications competing to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts were approved on Monday to go on to the second and final round, when the number will be whittled down to just 35 licenses.

The Massachusetts Public Health Department announced that 158 of the 181 applications are eligible to continue in the process, reports Kay Lazar at The Boston Globe. The initial applicants were reviewed for nonprofit status, financial viability and compliance with other requirements.

"This is a very competitive process and we required applicants to meet high standards to advance," said state Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett. "We are fortunate that Massachusetts has a large field of serious applicants, who are capable of making a significant investment to benefit qualified patients and safeguard communities."

"While no decision to deny an applicant was taken lightly, we wanted to ensure that those who advance could demonstrate the ability to operate a successful nonprofit Registered Marijuana Dispensary," Bartlett said.

Twenty-two applicants did not meet the criteria, and one applicant withdrew, according to state officials.

Applicants were denied for a variety of reasons, including failing to incorporate as a nonprofit, or a lack of demonstrated financial viability.

Massachusetts: Medical Marijuana Patients Would Pay $50, Dispensaries $50,000 Annual Fee Under Plan

MarijuanaMassachusetts

Dispensary Licenses Would Cost $50,000 A Year Under Department of Health Plan

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is proposing to charge medical marijuana patients $50 a year, and dispensaries an annual fee of $50,000.

Patients with a "verified financial hardship" would be allowed to request a waiver of the registration fee, subject to review and approval by the state health department, reports Kay Lazar of the Boston Globe.

Patients who qualify for a hardship license to cultivate (most patients won't be allowed to grow at home; all except those who are mobility challenged will be required to buy from dispensaries) would have to pay an additional $100 fee for the privilege, reports WCVB.

The proposed rules call for marijuana dispensaries to pay an initial $1,500 application fee, followed by a $30,000 charge for the second phase of the licensing process; both fees are nonrefundable, even if the application is denied.

Licensed dispensaries will then be required to pay an annual fee of $50,000. Dispensaries would also be required to pay a $500 annual registration fee for each of their employees.

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