Without Dispensaries, Pot Patients Have Few Options

MASSACHUSETTS:  With the first medical marijuana dispensaries yet to open in Massachusetts, patients approved to use cannabis for medical purposes say they’re left with few options.

“Generally, I will say patients are experiencing confusion and frustration,” said Jamie Leaver of Sharon, a member of the patient advisory board for the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance. “The only truly legal way to obtain the medication is to grow it for yourself or have a caregiver grow for you and you only.”

The medical marijuana law that voters passed more than two years ago allows approved patients to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana, but doesn’t specify how they can obtain it.

In the absence of dispensaries, Department of Public Health regulations allow patients or their registered caregivers to grow their own marijuana. Once dispensaries open, the DPH will allow patients to apply for financial hardship exemptions to cultivate the drug for their personal medical use.

Massachusetts Revamps Medical Marijuana Licensing Process

MASSACHUSETTS:  The Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Wednesday announced a new licensing process for medical marijuana dispensaries, which will treat them more like any other health care facility.

The new process will allow dispensaries to apply for licenses on a rolling basis, and each one will be scored individually. Previously, the state set deadlines for applications, then analyzed the entire group simultaneously.

The licensing process until now has been beset by lawsuits from companies that did not get a license. There have been major delays after some companies that did get provisional approval were found to have problems with their applications. More than two years after voters legalized medical marijuana, no dispensaries have opened. According to the Department of Public Health, the process left the department with a budget deficit of $1 million since the application process was more costly than expected, and the program did not generate the expected revenue.

Activists Rally In Favor Of Medical Cannabis Use

MASSACHUSETTS:  Massachusetts residents and activists protested outside the Department of Public Health Tuesday to rally for medical cannabis use for patients in need.

About 60 advocates protested the inaction of the Massachusetts government in granting patients access to medical cannabis, which was legalized in the Commonwealth in November 2012. More than 20 dispensaries were approved in Massachusetts, but the organization that planned the rally, #UNACCEPTABLE Coalition, claims that the DPH was unable to follow through because of shortcomings in the dispensary application process.

“This is no longer okay, and we demand the Department of Public Health immediately begin to open up the program and allow for patients to access safe and quality cannabis medicines through experienced caregivers able to serve multiple patients, and clean, well-lit dispensary facilities,” the group said in a Tuesday press release.

No dispensaries have been opened, said Bill Downing, spokesman for Yankee Care Givers, a company that sells and delivers cannabis to those who have a medical need.


Massachusetts Names Director Of New Medical Marijuana Program

MASSACHUSETTS:  A long-time health administrator was named Monday as executive director of the state’s nascent medical marijuana program, an appointment that comes with ultimate authority to decide which companies are granted licenses to open dispensaries where the drug will be sold.

Karen van Unen had served as a consultant to Massachusetts officials during the launch of the program and has been a chief operating officer and program director at a number of non-profit organizations in Boston. She will oversee “all aspects of the medical marijuana program,” according to a statement from the Department of Public Health.

In addition to selecting which of the 100 applicants will win one of the 35 coveted dispensary licenses later this month, van Unen will have oversight over inspection of dispensaries, and the creation of a database listing people authorized to get medical marijuana, which is expected to be running later this year, the department said.