Politics & Government
4:52 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

DPH Establishes Medical Marijuana Regulations

Credit eggrole / Flickr Creative Commons

Massachusetts health officials have finalized the rules and the amount of medical marijuana allowed for patients.

Six months after Massachusetts voters approved medical marijuana, the state’s public health council unanimously passed regulations allowing clinics to open.

Under the regulations, doctors can only prescribe marijuana to patients suffering illnesses like cancer, glaucoma, aids or other "debilitating conditions." Debilitating conditions are defined as those that "cause weakness, wasting syndrome, intractable pain or nausea or impairing strength or ability and progressing to such an extent that one or more major life activities are susbstantially limited."

Department of Public Health Interim Commissioner Lauren Smith says the regulations try to make sure medical marijuana is used appropriately.

"We wanted to make sure that our ballot measure was implemented in a way that allowed folks that needed it to get the medical marijuana, but was very clear that folks who didn’t need it, shouldn’t," Smith said.

The regulations impose a limit of 10 ounces every 60 days. If patients live too far away from dispensaries, or are too sick to leave the house, they can grow their own marijuana at home.

Smith says it will be a while before the first dispensary can open.

"There are many steps that have to be accomplished before that can happen," Smith said. "Not the least of which is the application process, which needs to be very thorough and rigorous. Then, of course, after a group is selected, they actually have to build out a place, and hire staff, and do the training, and put in the security systems that people expect."

The DPH plans to license up to 35 dispensaries around the state. But a community probably can stop a dispensary through local zoning or siting laws. Even though the Attorney General ruled that cities and towns can’t enact outright bans on dispensaries.

The new rules officially go into effect on May 24. The first dispensaries would probably not begin operating before the end of the year.