For the last several months MASS GRASS, the newsletter of MASS CANN/NORML, published a list of caregivers able to provide patients with medical marijuana.
Last week, that service ended when caregivers on that list received legal advice on the MA Department of Public Health’s newly enacted medical marijuana regulations.
MassCann’s Bill Downing reports, “DPH regulations violate the intentions of the law. Until dispensaries become operational, patients were intended to be cared for by caregivers. This is now impossible for all but a few patients.
This leaves caregivers who serve multiple patients in a ‘defensible position’ after they have been arrested and their lives torn asunder. This means they might not be convicted and yet again, they might.”
Matt Allen of Mass Patients Advocacy Alliance had this to say: “We acknowledge that there is some frustration coming from patients who do not yet have access to medical marijuana, but people have to understand that fully implementing any policy takes time, and in the long term regulations evolve to address issues as they come up. The Department of Public Health is taking time to plan the program comprehensively, and this will help avoid some of the problems that have negatively impacted patients in other jurisdictions. To give some perspective, it took several years for New Jersey and Rhode Island to open dispensaries. The process here is proceeding rapidly in comparison, and the DPH should be commended for that.”
Well, New Jersey is the worst medical marijuana state for patients in the nation (low bar) and Rhode Island, unlike Mass., has always offered a fully functioning caregiver program that has never denied any patients their medicine.
Allen continues, “Now that regulations have been finalized, MPAA is operating in a watchdog capacity. MPAA will not stop working until the medical marijuana law has been fully implemented and all patients with legitimate need have safe access to their medicine. Right now, part of supporting effective implementation is waiting for the state to complete the process of licensing the dispensaries. At that point we can take stock of how the program is working, and work with the state to address any possible shortcomings.”
Translation: MPAA won’t rock the DPH boat until dispensary permits are awarded. Even though many patients are now cut off from their established caregivers, protesting or saying a cross word about the DPH is not part of the MPAA game plan. It’s more playing politics than watch-dogging.
Allen strikes back. “We are currently collecting stories from patients who are facing issues with the program. For instance, some patients are reporting that they have lost safe access to their medicine since regulations were finalized because of the 1:1 ratio between caregivers and patients. We are asking patients to visit our website and let us know about any issues they are facing, so we can work together to have them addressed in the long term. ”
So, long term, MPAA has your back but for now “some” patients are shit out of luck?
Dispensaries in Massachusetts are more than a year away from opening, and advocates have questions for the DPH. “Why should patients that had access, have it taken away?” “Where, without caregivers, does the DPH, the department charged with allowing access for patients, expect patients to get their marijuana?” “Why hasn’t the cost benefit to patients been factored in with these new regs?”
These are good questions. Contact the DPH and let them know you want good answers.