Group wants to help medical marijuana industry avoid legal woes

Posted on 05 February 2013

By Ignacio Laguarda
GateHouse News Service

If you want to open a medical marijuana dispensary, there are about 60 forms you’ll need to fill out before you even open up shop.
Once that happens, meticulous bookkeeping and hands-on business management will be the key to keeping the Internal Revenue Service at bay and making you federally compliant, said Newton-based attorney Robert Carp.
The process and operation of a medical marijuana dispensary is one riddled with potential mines and traps, said Carp. He’s hoping that enough people will see the nuanced and sometimes confusing state marijuana law and come looking for help, hopefully in his direction.
During a two-hour presentation at the Brookline Public Library on Washington Street on Friday, Jan. 18, Carp went through a litany of tips and potential problems for prospective new dispensary owners, caregivers and patients. Although the meeting was meant as an informational session, Carp also used it as a promotional tool to build up his burgeoning Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Dispensers’ Association, Inc., which he runs with his business partner Stephen Cottens, another attorney.
The idea of the association is to provide information to dispensary owners, caretakers and patients about the medical marijuana industry. Paying members would have access to legal experts, as well as vendors. The Brookline meeting was the first one for the association, which plans monthly meetings.
Judging from the crowd in attendance, the demand for such informational sessions seemed to be high, as participants came from all over New England to listen and take notes about what will be required to participate in, and profit from, the medical marijuana industry.
“A lot of people are stumped because [they] envision it as simply growing marijuana, harvesting it and selling it,” said Carp, an enrolled agent with the IRS. “The truth of the matter is it goes far beyond that. You need to have very specific compliance in place.”
Much of the marijuana regulations are still unknown, as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has until May 1 to issue them. However, the state will consider dispensary applicants starting on April 1. The application fee is $250, and there are only 35 licenses available for the entire state, with a limit of five per county. Initially, the state will only make 19 of those available.
Part of Carp’s plan includes creating a co-op down the road, and providing a place to house a number of marijuana plants for use by dispensaries. The idea is to provide a sense of security to dispensaries that their product will be in good hands even when they can’t be in direct supervision of it.

Read more: Group wants to help medical marijuana industry avoid legal woes – Waltham, Massachusetts – Wicked Local Waltham http://www.wickedlocal.com/waltham/news/x930791892/Group-wants-to-help-medical-marijuana-industry-avoid-legal-woes#ixzz2K2aS55NH

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General, Massachusetts

More questions than answers raised by medical marijuana law

Posted on 14 January 2013

By Mark Fillippino
Bedford Minuteman
While the state Department of Public Health (DPH) continues to come up with regulations for the recently enacted medical marijuana law, municipalities are asking for more time to prepare their communities.
According to the law, the DPH has 120 days to sharpen guidelines for medical marijuana including a definition for how much constitutes as a 60-day supply and where treatment centers should be zoned. In the meantime, physicians can still license medical marijuana cards to patients who qualify and those patients can legally grow marijuana in their own homes.
Many municipalities feel they will be rushed to adapt to the DPH’s regulations once they are enacted in May. In many cases the regulations will be put in place after municipalities have their Town Meetings, which would force them to wait almost a full calendar year or call a special Town Meeting before enacting local legislation.
Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) Executive Director Geoff Beckwith believes this doesn’t give communities adequate time. As a result, the MMA is pushing to delay the law until July.
“In general towns don’t have enough time to know and review and update their zoning bylaw and address the issue of zoning marijuana manufacturing,” Beckwith said. “It’s too quick and too soon to prepare and review something that was illegal that is suddenly legal.”
In Acton, the Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to petition legislators for a delay. Board members said they wanted time to make decisions on zoning, personnel bylaws, licensing and other regulations.
Beckwith said because physicians can start issuing medical marijuana cards with no dispensaries available, communities will have to regulate marijuana grown on people’s private property. He said towns don’t want to deal with such an overwhelming scenario.
“The voters voted for this,” Beckwith said. “The best way to deal with this is if the whole law was delayed so these questions could be answered ahead of time with this limbo or gray zone period.”
Other communities, including Wakefield and Reading, have voted to ban treatment centers, but it is still unclear whether a ban can legally go into effect.

Read more: More questions than answers raised by medical marijuana law – Bedford, MA – Bedford Minuteman http://www.wickedlocal.com/bedford/archive/x1926908521#ixzz2HyUwi8v0

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General, New Hampshire

Over Two Thirds of New Hampshire Voters Support Medical Marijuana

Posted on 11 January 2013

CONCORD, NH – “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire remains the only New England state that does not allow medical marijuana, and a new poll shows that voters are ready to join their neighbors in allowing compassionate use of cannabis.

More than two-thirds (68%) of New Hampshire voters think the state should enact a law allowing seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it, according to a survey conducted this week by Public Policy Polling (PPP). Just 26% said they were opposed.

New Hampshire remains the only state in New England that does not allow medical marijuana.

The poll, which is being released just as state lawmakers prepare to consider a medical marijuana bill in this year’s legislative session, also found that 52% of voters would be more likely to vote for a state legislator if he or she voted for such legislation. Just 27% said they’d be less likely.

“Voters in New Hampshire are more than ready to move forward with allowing seriously ill patients to use marijuana if their doctors recommend it,” said Matt Simon, a New Hampshire-based legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “Allowing seriously ill patients to use marijuana to ease their pain and treat their symptoms is a lot more popular these days than threatening them with arrest and prosecution.”

State Rep. Donna Schlachman (D-Exeter) has requested the filing of a medical marijuana bill to be considered in this year’s legislative session, and advocates are hopeful that it will receive majority support in both the House and Senate. Gov. Maggie Hassan has expressed support for passing medical marijuana legislation. A medical marijuana bill that passed with bipartisan support last session was vetoed by then-governor John Lynch.

Legislators will also consider a bill this year that would decriminalize marijuana and a separate bill that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. The PPP survey found that 62% support enacting a law to replace criminal penalties for marijuana possession with a fine and no jail time, and 53% support taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol.

This strong support may be the result of voters increasingly recognizing the relative safety compared to prescription painkillers and alcohol. The PPP poll found that 70% of voters believe marijuana is a safer treatment for debilitating pain than Oxycontin, and that a strong plurality believes it is less harmful than alcohol.

“We applaud lawmakers for initiating debate about broader reform, but we must move quickly to pass legislation that will protect people who use marijuana in the treatment of their debilitating medical conditions,” Simon said. “There are a lot of seriously ill patients in New Hampshire who cannot wait any longer to get legal, safe, and reliable access to their medicine.”

The PPP survey of 857 New Hampshire voters was conducted January 7-8. The full results can be downloaded at http://www.mpp.org/NHpoll

By Marijuana Policy Project

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General, Rhode Island

Ex-RI Rep. Kennedy lobbies against legal marijuana

Posted on 08 January 2013

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy says he’s established a group to lobby against legalized marijuana.
The ex-congressman says efforts around the United States to legalize marijuana are well-intentioned but misguided.
The Providence Journal reports (http://bit.ly/yXauJR ) that Kennedy’s group, Project SAM — for Smart Approaches to Marijuana — will instead lobby for increased treatment for marijuana and drug abuse.
He says making marijuana legal would introduce a new substance comparable to alcohol and tobacco that would cause more public health problems than it would solve.
Kennedy also says he is skeptical about medical marijuana. He says it misdirects compassion for those who suffer from cancer and other diseases to support for an extreme drug policy.
Rhode Island allows the regulated use and cultivation of marijuana to treat some medical conditions.
Information from: The Providence Journal, http://www.providencejournal.com

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General, Massachusetts

Questions And Answers Regarding Medical Marijuana In Massachusetts

Posted on 07 January 2013

Massachusetts has put out a new document outlining the frequently asked questions, and answers, about medical marijuana in Massachusetts. A special thanks to Shaleen Title for bringing it to everyone’s attention!

FAQ Regarding Medical Marijuana in Massachusetts

In November 2012, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot question which allows qualifying patients with certain medical conditions to obtain and use medical marijuana. While the ballot question makes medical marijuana legal in the state, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health must consider several important issues to ensure safe and responsible use.

To that end, DPH has been meeting internally to begin the process of developing these regulations. DPH is partnering with a wide range of stakeholders in public safety, patient advocacy groups, the medical community, and municipal governments and will learn from other states’ experiences to put a system in place that is right for Massachusetts.

The following are a series of frequently asked questions about the current status and planned timeline for the implementation of regulations required by the new law:

What happens on January 1, 2013?

The medical marijuana law takes effect on January 1, 2013. At that point, the Department will have 120 days (until May 1, 2013) to issue regulations. Until regulations are in place, medical marijuana dispensaries cannot open, and DPH cannot issue any registration cards. DPH’s regulations will reflect input from various stakeholders, and the Department will hold a hearing and comment period to allow for further public input before the regulations are finalized.

Are qualifying patients eligible for medical marijuana under the new law starting January 1 while DPH is drafting its regulations?

During the time DPH is crafting its regulations, the ballot measure allows the written recommendation of a qualifying patient’s physician to act as a medical marijuana registration card. Similarly, the law allows a qualifying patient to cultivate their own limited supply of marijuana during this period. Under the law, until DPH issues its regulations, it is not involved in regulating any medical marijuana recommendations between physicians and patients, or in defining the limited cultivation registration.

How do I qualify as a patient?

The patient must obtain a written certification from a physician for a debilitating medical condition. The law specifies: cancer, glaucoma, 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 allows qualified patients to possess up to a 60-day supply of marijuana for their personal medical use. The law directs DPH to define a 60-day supply through regulation.

What must DPH decide before dispensaries can be registered and registration cards can be issued?

Beginning on January 1, DPH will have 120 days to issue regulations governing numerous sections of the law. Some of the provisions include: setting application fees for non-profit medical marijuana treatment centers to fully cover the cost to the state; defining the quantity of marijuana that constitutes a 60-day supply; setting rules for cultivation and storage of marijuana, which will be allowed only in enclosed, locked facilities; creating registration cards for qualified patients; and defining rules around registration cards, personal caregivers, employees of medical marijuana treatment centers and individuals who qualify for a hardship cultivation registration.

I want to operate a medical marijuana dispensary. Can I apply for registration while regulations are being written?

No, because the regulations will specify what information and fee must be submitted for an application to be considered. In the first year, the law allows DPH to register up to 35 non-profit treatment centers across the state, with at least one but no more than five centers per county. The non-profit treatment centers would be registered under the law to grow, process and provide marijuana to qualified patients.

Will Massachusetts give guidance to health care providers on the medical marijuana law?

The Board of Registration in Medicine is collaborating with DPH to determine how to ensure that physicians understand the law and its provisions. The Board welcomes the recommendations of the Massachusetts Medical Society and other interested stakeholders, and will collaborate with DPH to successfully implement the law and promote patient safety.

Will health insurers or governments be required to cover medical marijuana?

No. Nothing in the law requires any health insurance provider, or any government agency or authority, to reimburse any person for the expenses of the medical use of marijuana.

Source: Mass.Gov

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General, Massachusetts

Mass. towns, regulators brace for medical marijuana

Posted on 03 January 2013

By Denise Lavoie Boston Globe

Massachusetts voters may have enthusiastically approved the legalization of medical marijuana, but that has not stopped communities around the state from rushing to amend their zoning regulations to make sure marijuana dispensaries are banned or restricted in their towns.

Although the law allowing the use of marijuana for patients with serious medical conditions went into effect Tuesday, the state Department of Public Health has until May 1 to issue regulations on who will run the dispensaries, who will work there, and how they will be operated.

DPH must also decide what constitutes a 60-day supply patients can receive.

Some cities and towns are working to bar dispensaries. Wakefield and Reading have already approved zoning changes to keep them out.

‘‘People are concerned about how broad the law was written and that the dispensaries could be used by more than just people with medical issues,’’ said Ruth Clay, the health director for Wakefield, Reading, and Melrose, which is also working to pass a ban on dispensaries.

The law approved through Question 3 on the November election ballot eliminates civil and criminal penalties for the use of marijuana by people with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS, and other conditions determined by a doctor.

Opponents have said they are concerned that the public health officials will not be able to prevent abuses of the new law.

The Massachusetts Municipal Association is calling for a six-month delay in implementing the law.

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