Cannabis Sales are Months Away

Apr 11, 2013

Reg­u­la­tions for the med­ical use of mar­i­juana in Mass­a­chu­setts are sched­uled to be adopted next month, but even then, many key details will remain unre­solved, mak­ing it likely that dis­pen­saries will not open for many months, a top state health offi­cial said Wednes­day. Dr. Lau­ren Smith, the interim pub­lic health com­mis­sioner, said in an inter­view after a meet­ing of the state Pub­lic Health Coun­cil that her agency has “a lot of oper­a­tional chal­lenges” to con­front before dis­pen­saries could open, includ­ing the devel­op­ment of an inter­ac­tive, online data­base that will allow police to check whether patients have been autho­rized by their physi­cians to use mar­i­juana. Physi­cians would also be required to enter infor­ma­tion about the amount of mar­i­juana rec­om­mended for each patient. “We are hav­ing to develop from scratch reg­u­la­tory over­sight at the same time an indus­try is devel­op­ing from scratch,” Smith said. “We need a thor­ough, thought­ful review process,” she said. “To do it right, it’s going to take time.” For more than two hours Wednes­day, Pub­lic Health Depart­ment staff mem­bers detailed the agency’s 45 pages of draft reg­u­la­tions to the Pub­lic Health Coun­cil, an appointed body of aca­d­e­mics and health advo­cates that is slated to vote on the rules May 8. That would clear the way for the rules to go into effect by the end of May. Iyah Romm, spe­cial advi­sor to the health com­mis­sioner, told the coun­cil that the answers to many of their ques­tions had not been worked out and that the agency will address the con­cerns through a “sub­reg­u­la­tion” process after the panel’s May vote. Among con­cerns is the plan to require med­ical mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries to test their prod­ucts for con­t­a­m­i­na­tion, includ­ing heavy met­als and pes­ti­cides, even though spe­cial­ists say it is eas­ier to man­date test­ing than to do it reli­ably. Another issue is whether dis­pen­saries will be required to set aside money to com­pen­sate any patients harmed by a prod­uct. Fed­eral reg­u­la­tions against med­ical mar­i­juana could make it dif­fi­cult for com­pa­nies to obtain lia­bil­ity insur­ance. Vot­ers ­approved a bal­lot ref­er­en­dum in Novem­ber legal­iz­ing mar­i­juana for med­ical use in the state, and that mea­sure required the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health to issue reg­u­la­tions to imple­ment the law. Smith said the Pub­lic Health Depart­ment has no staff to over­see the med­ical mar­i­juana pro­gram and would depend on money raised from dis­pen­sary licens­ing fees, which have not yet been set, to hire per­son­nel. Lack of staff was a con­cern raised by coun­cil mem­ber Helen Caulton-Harris, Springfield’s health and human ser­vices direc­tor. The draft reg­u­la­tions say the Pub­lic Health Depart­ment will inspect the facil­i­ties, includ­ing those that pro­duce and sell edi­ble mar­i­juana prod­ucts, such as can­dies and cook­ies. Typ­i­cally, local boards of health inspect food estab­lish­ments in their com­mu­ni­ties. Har­ris said that in her expe­ri­ence, when a local busi­ness, such as a mas­sage par­lor or a bar­ber shop, falls under state juris­dic­tion for rou­tine inspec­tions, things fall through the cracks. “A lot of times, because of staffing short­ages, those inspec­tions don’t hap­pen in a timely man­ner,” Har­ris said. The state’s draft rules allow com­mu­ni­ties to pass local reg­u­la­tions for the dis­pen­saries and assess local fees, as long as they do not con­flict with state laws. Among the pro­vi­sions not included in the draft rules is reci­procity with other states, so patients cer­ti­fied for med­ical mar­i­juana use in Mass­a­chu­setts may not be pro­tected from pros­e­cu­tion else­where. A few states, such as Michi­gan and Ari­zona, allow out-of-state patients with proper reg­is­tra­tion cards to pos­sess mar­i­juana in their states, but most do not, and that has caused some prob­lems, said Steph Sherer, exec­u­tive direc­tor of Amer­i­cans for Safe Access, a non­profit that advo­cates for ­research and med­ical use of mar­i­juana. “It’s a ques­tion we get a lot from patients: ‘I am trav­el­ing and can I take my med­i­cine?’ ” Sherer said. “Unfor­tu­nately, the answer often is, at your own risk.” Source: Boston Globe (MA) Author: Kay Lazar, Globe Staff Pub­lished: April 11, 2013 Copy­right: 2013 Globe News­pa­per Com­pany Con­tact: letter@​globe.​com Web­site: http://​www​.boston​.com/​g​l​o​be/

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Cannabis Sales are Months Away

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