Proposed MA DPH regulations regarding medical-marijuana patients and caregivers
Posted by MikeCann via MikeCann.net
To: Massachusetts Department of Public Health
From: Andy Gaus
Re: Proposed regulations regarding medical-marijuana patients and caregivers
Thank you for providing this forum to comment on the proposed DPH regulations on medical marijuana.
Two provisions in particular appear to make it virtually impossible for caregivers to provide the marijuana patients need while dispensaries are slowly organizing themselves:
1) Each caregiver must provide marijuana for only one patient.
2) The caregiver is not supposed to receive any compensation whatever from the patient for providing the marijuana.
Put these two provisions together, and very few people can practically step forward and become caregivers.
Bear in mind that growing marijuana indoors requires investing several hundred dollars in equipment to get started, paying high electrical bills in the ensuing months as well as ongoing costs for soil and fertilizer, and putting in hours of very real physical labor. If a patient grows for herself, these costs are repaid by the marijuana harvested and the relief it brings. But if a patient cannot grow for herself, the very considerable costs and burdens of producing the marijuana fall totally on the caregiver, with all compensation prohibited. This isn't just unfair: it has the practical effect of making it virtually impossible to be a caregiver, which means no one can help the person who cannot grow for herself. If you wish to limit the ability of a caregiver to profit from their cottage industry, you could set a maximum number of patients (but not a maximum of one), or a maximum price per ouince, or both. A limit of, say, 20 patients per caregiver and $100 per ounce would keep caregivers and their homes from turning into for-profit dispensaries but would not leave patients with no one to turn to during a long period when cities and towns are enacting moratoriums and potential dispensary operators are clearing numerous legal hurdles.
The provision that a patient must have no more than two total sources of marijuana is also unnecessarily onerous. If all providers are supposed to use a common state database, any user of the database should be able to verify that the same patient isn't filling the same prescription multiple times at different locations. If a further check is needed, patients could be issued something like a ration book.
One senses in all these regulations the underlying assumption that a set of air-tight regulations is both necessary and sufficient to prevent medical marijuana from being diverted to healthy recreational users, and that without such air-tight regulations, large-scale diversion is inevitable, with disastrous social consequences, particularly the increased availability to minors.
Let's be realistic: recreational users, including minors, already have total access to marijuana if they want it. Kids themselves, when surveyed, report that marijuana is easier to get than alcohol. Those who get their dope from dealers needn't fear being rejected as too young, and most of them get it, not from dealers, but from each other, in a vast informal network where everyone is both a user and a distributor. Likewise, almost all Massachusetts adults who wish to consume marijuana recreationally have found or could find a connection: marijuana prices have actually come down in recent years due to market saturation.
As officials responsible for public health, your first priority must be to make sure that patients who need marijuana for relief of painful and debilitating conditions can get it.
Minimizing diversion cannot be the main goal: it will never be effective for its stated purpose and is certain to cause unnecessary stress and pain for patients who need relief now and for the caregivers who would like to provide it .
Question 3 seeks to legalize medical marijuana
BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER The Salem News
Advocates say the ballot initiative is aimed at granting legal access to a marijuana in a safe and secure manner, so that patients with chronic pain or other illnesses can benefit from its use and not suffer the stigma of feeling like criminals.
Some in law enforcement and drug prevention are concerned that the initiative would provide a backdoor supply from the dispensaries, bolster use and dependency among young people, and increase crime associated with marijuana trafficking.
“The issue is very important from a public health standpoint,” said Peg Sallade, coordinator for the DanversCares prevention coalition. As a public employee, she cannot advocate for or against Question 3, but she said she is allowed to educate the public.
One of the concerns is that if Question 3 passes, young people may no longer perceive marijuana as an illegal drug.
“When we call an illegal drug a medicine, it creates a false impression among young people it’s safe to use,” Sallade said.
Even if the state ballot measure passes, however, the federal government still considers marijuana illegal.
“Regardless of state laws to the contrary,” according to the website for the Marijuana Resource Center of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, “there is no such thing as ‘medical’ marijuana under federal law. Marijuana continues to be a Schedule I substance, meaning that it has no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett is strongly opposed to Question 3.
“Until the American Medical Association and the Massachusetts Medical Society supports smoked marijuana as a legitimate medical remedy, and it receives FDA approval like all other medications, it is my opinion that the medical marijuana ballot initiative is nothing less than an effort to legalize a potentially dangerous and addictive drug,” Blodgett said through spokeswoman Carrie Kimball Monahan.
Put forward by the Committee for Compassionate Medicine, Question 3 aims to remove punishment under state law for “patients, physicians and health care professionals, personal caregivers for patients, or medical marijuana treatment center agents for the medical use of marijuana.”
Marijuana would be recommended for those with a “debilitating medical condition” such as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, Crohn’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis “and other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician.”
“Who determines who has a medical condition?” asked Danvers police Chief Neil Ouellette, who said his research into medical marijuana in other states found that the most prevalent use for it is to treat back pain.
“I have seen what substance abuse has done in a community, and it’s a dangerous road to go down,” said Ouellette, who said that as a public official he can speak “from a public policy perspective.”
However, proponents say the measure carries numerous safeguards, given the lessons learned in the 17 other states where medicinal marijuana has been legalized, said Jennifer Manley, spokeswoman for the Committee for Compassionate Medicine.
In the states where medical marijuana ran into problems, states did not repeal their laws but instead attempted to fix the system, said Whitney Taylor of the Committee for Compassionate Medicine.
Under the proposal, patients and physicians would have to register with the state. Dispensary agents and caregivers must be at least 21. Dispensary agents could not be convicted drug felons. Marijuana cultivation and storage must take place in locked, secured facilities.
Patients and physicians would also have to prove an authentic doctor-patient relationship, and there would be limits on how much supply — 60 days — a person could obtain.
Statewide, the number of medical marijuana treatment centers would be capped at 35, and no more than five would be allowed to operate in any one county. To deter someone from defrauding the system, the law also creates a new misdemeanor and a new felony, punishable with up to five years in prison for distribution, sale or trafficking, Manley said.
Former state Trooper Karen Hawkes, 45, of Rowley said she uses marijuana so she can lead a normal life free of pain after she suffered a stroke in 2005. Traditional medicines left her feeling tired, confused and living like a zombie for years.
“I was in a fog, and I was not there for my kids,” Hawkes said.
At the time of Hawkes’ stroke, her children were 3 and 4 years old. She tried a list of pharmaceuticals “as long as your arm,” but the side effects were worse than the pain, she said.
Hawkes wrestled with the ethical qualm of taking medical marijuana and searched for a legal pharmaceutical. She said the initiative would create regulations around its use as a treatment, making medical marijuana much safer.
Hawkes will not say where she obtains her cannabis, but she administers it using vaporizers or tinctures, the latter being alcohol extractions, rather than smoking it.
Ouellette points out that there is a drug called Marinol that has a synthetic form of THC, but Taylor said that THC is one of the most “psychoactive” components of marijuana, and it does not work for everyone.
Hawkes said she benefits from the various components of marijuana, not just from THC.