MA DPH Holds Public Hearing on Medical Marijuana Rules

Massachusetts Department of Public Health officials held a public hearing Wednesday at Holyoke Community College on regulations for the state’s new medical marijuana law. The law passed in November’s election and requires the DPH to issue rules by May 1st.

Over 100 people attended the hearing. The new law allows qualifying patients, with a prescription, to access a 60-day supply of marijuana through a so-called treatment center. Up to 35 such centers will be allowed. But the DPH must determine how much pot constitutes a 60-day supply. The ballot measure lists several qualifying conditions, such as cancer, HIV, and Parkinson’s disease. But several speakers testified a patient’s qualifications to take marijuana should be determined by individual physicians.

“I think it really has to be decided by the primary care physician or the person who is keeping in touch with that patient and their family.”

That’s Marina Goldman, a nurse practitioner from Montague. She says lawmakers shouldn’t determine qualifying conditions. Other speakers raised concerns on the drug’s availability to teenagers. Marisa Hebble is with the Northampton Prevention Coalition. She says though she’s not against medical marijuana, the DPH needs to convey the negative aspects of the drug to youth.

“They’re not getting messaging that there’s negative consequences related to it. We just told them that it’s medicine.”

Hebble says dispensaries will make marijuana more available to youth. Interim DPH Commissioner Dr. Lauren Smith says her department is working hard to meet the May 1st deadline.