Even though medical marijuana has been legal in Massachusetts since 2012, it took the state years to get things rolling for the thousands of patients registered to the program. In the entire state there are currently only nine dispensaries so far – although hopefully this number will increase.
Seeing as how the recreational industry will soon be underway, it makes sense that the state would want to ensure that the medical marijuana industry doesn’t fail. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has been revisiting certain guidelines and are working on implementing multiple changes.
The biggest change that is expected to take place is allowing Certified Nurse Practitioners to recommend medical marijuana to patients. This will make it much easier for patients to find someone willing to give them a recommendation after proof of a qualifying condition. There is also a plan to change existing laws so medical marijuana can be dispensed to patients at hospice facilities and hospitals, making it just as available as any other medication.
“Four years after the institution of the laws, we still wait for safe access with only nine dispensaries being opened,” Dost said. “The medicine is expensive and often cost-prohibitive.”
On the hospice end of things, there are those who believe that the new rules do not go far enough – suggesting a streamlined process for those who are in hospice. In most cases, people only stay in hospice for 30-45 days, and it can take six to eight weeks to get a recommendation, be approved by the state and receive a medical marijuana ID card in the mail – by the time they would finally be able to get the medicine, they are usually gone.
Along with these changes, there is talk of redefining what constitutes a 60 day supply of the plant. Currently, that limit is defined as 10 ounces; under the new rules doctors could define it as any amount 10 ounces or under – however some advocates say the amount should be higher depending on the condition and the severity of it.
The Department of Public Health has also suggested that labs should not be able to test medical marijuana for individuals – which includes a number of patients who grow their own cannabis legally at home. This is quite an issue for advocates, who wish to see patients able to test their medicine for mold and potency.
“Our top priority continues to be promoting safe patient access while balancing public safety and promoting transparency in the Medical Use of Marijuana program,” said DPH spokesman Tom Lyons. “We believe the proposed changes will advance those goals. Input from stakeholders is an important part of the regulatory process; we welcome the feedback and will closely review all comments submitted during the public comment period and make changes as necessary.”
Hopefully the state is serious when it comes to getting patients medical marijuana in a timely manner. Increasing the number of medical professionals who can recommend it will help patients in need get their recommendation – and hopefully the current growth of the industry will help get more dispensaries up and running, increasing patient access.