Massachusetts’ Medical Cannabis Law Takes Effect
Question 3, ‘An Initiative Petition for a Law for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana,’ took effect on Tuesday, January 1. Sixty-three percent of state voters approved the measure on Election Day. Massachusetts is the 18th state since 1996 to allow for the physician-authorized use of cannabis as a therapeutic option for qualified patients. Neighboring states Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont all also allow for cannabis therapy.
The new law eliminates statewide criminal and civil penalties related to the possession and use of up to a 60-day supply of cannabis by qualified patients who possess a state-authorized “registration card.” State regulators have 120 days to “issue regulations defining the quantity of marijuana that could reasonably be presumed to be a sixty-day supply for qualifying patients.”
To qualify for the nascent program, patients must possess a recommendation from a physician attesting that cannabis assists with the treatment of a “debilitating medical condition.” Physicians may authorize cannabis under the law for the treatment of “cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician.”
The law establishes a state-run patient registry and the creation of up to 35 state-licensed, non-profit “medical marijuana treatment centers.” Within the first year after the law’s implementation, the state must issue regulations for the creation of such centers. Individual patients are also permitted to privately cultivate limited amounts of cannabis or designate a “personal caregiver” to cultivate for them if they are unable to access a state-authorized dispensary or if they can verify “financial hardship.”
Massachusetts’ new medical use provisions do not include reciprocity provisions protecting visitors from other medical use states.
Additional information about the law is available from the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance.