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DPW Schedules Marijuana Law "Listening Sessions"

MA.Gov LogoQuestion 3 passed as a ballot initiative and allows for the physician-authorized use of cannabis as a therapeutic option for qualified patients.

The Commonwealth's Department of Public Health has until May 1, 2013 to devise the rules and regulations for implemention. Three "listening sessions" are scheduled statewide. Other organizations are holding information sessions as well. The Marijuana Policy Project is a nonprofit founded in 1995 to reform US marijuana laws provides a history of reforming marijuana laws in Massachusetts.

Question 3 Approved by Voters

Cannabis On November 6, 2012, 63% Massachusetts state voters approved Question 3, ‘An Initiative Petition for a Law for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana,’ which allows the Bay State to protect the rights of patients whose doctors recommend medical marijuana.

View Question 3 Complete Ballot Document

The marijuana law went into effect on January 1, 2013 making Massachusetts the 18th state to allow for the physician-authorized use of cannabis as a therapeutic option for qualified patients. The Commonwealth joins neighboring states Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont, all which have previously approved legal 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." The law also establishes a state-run patient registry and the creation of up to 35 state-licensed, nonprofit "medical marijuana treatment centers."

Image courtesy wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts must issue regulations for the creation of the treatment centers within the first year after the law's implementation. Extenuating circumstances, "financial hardship," allows for individual patients to privately cultivate limited amounts of cannabis. Or they can designate a "personal caregiver" to cultivate it for them.

May 1 Deadline for Issuing Regulations

Under the ballot measure approved by voters, the Commonwealth has until May 1, 2013 to "get its act together." The Department of Public Health (DPH) is the government agency responsible for issuing regulations, registration cards and permission for medical marijuana dispensaries to open. Until the regulations are in effect, no dispensaries will be allowed to open.

DPH will be partnering with a wide range of stakeholders including those in public safety, the medical community,  municipal governments and the public. Their goal is to put into place a system that is right for Massachusetts.

Click here to see the official DPH announcement

Regulations will be developed by:
  • working with stakeholders
  • taking into account lessons learned from other states’ experiences
  • gathering input from the public

DPH Schedules "Listening Sessions"

In the month of February 2013, the Department of Public Health will be holding three statewide “listening sessions. Anyone attending will be allotted a three- minute time slot to air their grievances or concerns. The "listening sessions" are not the same as the mandatory public hearings that must be held prior to the final drafting of the laws which are due by May.


Wednesday, February 13
2PM – 5PM
Worcester Public Library Saxe Room
3 Salem Square Worcester, MA 01608

Thursday, February 14
10AM – 1PM
Roxbury Community College
Reggie Lewis Track & Athletic Center
1350 Tremont Street

Wednesday, February 27
1:30PM – 4:30PM
Holyoke Community College Kittredge Business Center
303 Homestead Ave

Anyone, unable to attend, is welcome to send written comments and feedback to MedicalMarijuana@state.ma.us

Bach Schedules Education Forum

In advance of the DPH listening session to be held on February 14 in Boston, the Boston Alliance for Community Health is holding a free education forum on February 12, 2013 at the Dorchester House Multi-Service Center.  The purpose is to provide an understanding of the law for anyone who plans to attend the listening session, thereby giving the public a better opportunity for providing input.

Free Educational Forum Medical Marijuana Law  in Boston

Tuesday, February 12, 2013, 6 pm - 8 pm
Dorchester House Multiservice Center
1353 Dorchester Avenue, Field's Corner, Dorchester
(a few blocks from Fields Corner Red Line T Stop)
The Medical Marijuana Law was passed by referendum in November 2012.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and local authorities are writing regulations for implementation that are due by May 1, 2013

MDPH will hold a public hearing on Thursday, February 14,  10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Roxbury Community College Reggie Lewis Track & Athletic Center, 1350 Tremont St., Boston At this forum you will learn from experts:
  • What the law says and what the law does not say
  • Potential Health Impacts for Youth
  • Local Options to Address Youth Health Impacts and Other Public Health Issues:
  • Boston Public Health Commission Strategies
  • Zoning Strategies
  • Local Law Enforcement Issues
  • Financial Implications of the Law
  • Environmental Impact on Neighborhoods of Growing Marijuana
  • Colleges and Universities: possession on campuses
  • Advocacy Options
For more information: David Aronstein 
617-279-2240 ext 509
daronstein@hria.org or www.bostonalliance.org

History of Marijuana Laws in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Marijuana Policy Project The Marijuana Policy Project is a nonprofit founded in 1995 to reform US marijuana laws. Their actions include lobbying for legislation and running ballot initiative campaigns to allow seriously ill patients the use of medical marijuana and to replace marijuana prohibition with a sensible system of regulation. They also build coalitions of supportive individuals and organizations to advocate on behalf of marijuana policy reform.

The MPP website provides a state-by-state history of progress towards effective marijuana regulation. Marijuana reform in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts began on November 4, 2008 when Massachusetts became the first state to remove the possibility of jail time for some marijuana possession. This was done by voter initiative with the Marijuana Project's campaign committee spearheading the effort.  As a result possession of an ounce or less of marijuana became a civil infraction punishable only by a $100 fine and forfeiture of the marijuana.

In April 2011, the Supreme Judicial odor Court ruled that the owner of marijuana emanating from a parked vehicle is not sufficient cause for further police investigation. The ruling stated that police officers lacked the authority to order suspects out of a parked passenger vehicle based on the oder of marijuana because there was no evidence that the suspects possessed a criminal amount of marijuana. Pursuing suspects under these circumstances was deemed an example of pursuing "decriminalize conduct with the same fervor associated with the pursuit of serious criminal conduct."

Possession of under an ounce of marijuana remains punishable by civil fine and the loss of the marijuana. Yet the prohibition and its associated public safety behavior create costs for the community, in particular, time spent enforcing marijuana laws instead of investigating more serious crimes. 


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Posted: February 3, 2013     Nancy J Conrad

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