The battle for medical marijuana continues in post-prohibition Mass
While a lot of us are scrambling and reeling in the wake of Bay State lawmakers pulling a fast one and delaying the sale of recreational cannabis for an additional six months from the intended January 2018 starting date, medical marijuana patients are still stuck in essentially the same battle they have been waging for years.
Though many recreational pot advocates are in cahoots and working with their peers in the medical community—there is, of course, more than a little crossover between the factions—for anybody new to the struggle for safe access to grass (and extracts, etc.) in Mass, it would be prudent to study up on the hurdles which patients have been made to jump over since voters greenlighted medicinal in 2012.
“Negotiations between [the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance] and the DPH have seen little progress even after four years of discussions,” according to an MPAA spokesperson. “Qualifying medical marijuana patients deserve respect.”
And so with respect on the agenda, yesterday MPAA voices and other medical advocates protested outside of DPH offices in Downtown Crossing, then went inside to testify about proposed amendments to the state’s regulations. Specifically, they argued for a fast track registration process and other hardship considerations for hospice patients, as well as other changes to the program and “for the legislature to … fix the medical marijuana law before [the recently passed legalization measure] is amended.”
“We had to bring in many advocates to cover issues with the [existing medical marijuana program] that haven’t been addressed,” MPAA Executive Director Nichole Snow said after the hearing. “We have a list of concerns. Advocates were talking about how when patients grow at home they should be able to test their medicine at independent laboratories. The legislation related to this needs to be clarified … Right now if [a lab] tests for dispensaries, they are concerned they won’t be able to [do commercial business as well].”
In her DPH testimony, Snow also noted “some positives in these new [proposed] regulations,” like that “patients will be able to price compare while searching for their appropriate strains and medical applications, certified nurse practitioners will be able to recommend cannabis to their patients, and finally institutional caregivers will deliver the medicine to those that need it most.”
At the same time, Snow noted some issues which have nevertheless been overlooked by lawmakers and legalization advocates alike—like how some people will be impacted by the public consumption ban.
“How are you going to distinguish between [a recreational user] and a patient who may need to use their medicine outside,” Snow said.
Overall, MPAA advocates believe their voices were seriously considered, which is a lot to ask for with the endless hoopla around legal pot blowing through Mass these days.
“I think we established our mission and presence,” Snow said. “That was our goal.”
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.