Patients, Advocates Speak Out On Medical Marijuana Rules At DPH Session

The Department of Public Health heard from advocates on both sides of the medical marijuana debate today, during the second of three public “listening sessions” as it develops regulations to implement the state’s new medical marijuana law.

Nearly 200 people attended the session. Official hearings will take place later this spring.
Many of the several dozen speakers at the session were patients suffering from ALS, multiple sclerosis, cancer, nerve damage, post-military service PTSD and other severe illnesses. They cited their use of marijuana as key to alleviating symptoms and controlling pain.

Most urged the DPH not to restrict access to medical marijuana by dictating which medical conditions and patients – and in which amounts – it may be prescribed for.

Karen Hawkes, a former state trooper from Rowley who survived a debilitating stroke seven years ago, said medical marijuana had helped her recovery and allows her to care for her three school-aged children. “Limiting conditions means medical treatments are being mandated by the state,” she said.

Matt Allan, executive director of the Boston-based Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, said the any new regulations must respect the doctor-patient relationship.

“It is a decision that should be made by patients and physicians together, not by a government list,” he said.

The Massachusetts Medical Society also submitted written comments to the DPH, based on its policy adopted last December, following the passage of the medical marijuana referendum in November.

“The society remains opposed to the recreational use of marijuana, but has adopted policies which should help the Department in its efforts to create a regulatory framework that supports responsible implementation of the new law,” the MMS said in its comments to the DPH.

The MMS agrees with patient advocates that use of medical marijuana should be based on the patient’s diagnosis and the physician’s assessment of symptoms that are not optimally controlled with conventional medical therapy.

The MMS also expressed several concerns related to the provisions of the referendum, including a recommendation that the definition of a bona fide physician-patient relationship should be established by the state Board of Registration in Medicine.

The MMS also recommend to the DPH that the term “licensed physician” should be limited to include only those physicians with an active license from the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, a Massachusetts Department of Public Health Controlled Substances registration, and a federal Drug Enforcement Agency registration.

A number of speakers at Thursday’s session were public health workers and youth advocates who urged the DPH to closely monitor and restrict the prescription, distribution and use of medical marijuana.

Tara Doran, a manager at the South Boston Action for Substance Abuse Prevention, said her agency sees young people increasingly drawn to marijuana and called a rigorous certification vetting process for patients, and controlled distribution.  She, along with several police officers who offered testimony on Thursday, called for limits on how and where medical marijuana may be advertised to discourage its attractiveness to young people and teenagers.

Doran and other anti-drug advocates also asked the DPH to make medical marijuana subject to the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program.

The MMS also believes patient certifications should become part of the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program; and that any new medical marijuana regulations take into account the implications of the medical use of marijuana on occupational health and safety.

MMS leaders also raised a number of other questions in the testimony, including treatment dosages, the duration of certifications, the amount of an appropriate supply, non-profit criteria for dispensaries, and if licensed individuals may participate in the certification process without concern for their licenses.

—   Erica Noonan

  1. ERASTOTHENES DE ALEJANDRIA says:

    The main problem is always concept: drugs. But the evil of drugs like any other instrument that we use (weapons, cars…), not depend on themselves, which are things without a soul, but use that give human beings. Therefore the good or bad of marijuana effects depends not of herself but of us.It is always better to regulate be banned.

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