Massachusetts Messes Up MMJ Rollout

How long should it take for a state to roll out its medical marijuana plan? Three months? A year? What about two years? If you live in Massachusetts, you have probably been asking yourself that question for a long time.

In 2012, Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana and now nearly two years later, faced with corruption and needless delays, not a single plant has been grown and not a single seed has been sown. The implementation of Massachusetts’s medical marijuana program has been a roller coaster and a train wreck combined.

In 2013, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health slowed down the process by dragging its feet on formulating the rules for the medical marijuana system. State legislators justified the delay by claiming that they were taking time to deal with issues regarding the language of the bill. State officials were apparently concerned that medical marijuana in Massachusetts might make it to the black market.

In July 2014, the process was further set back when state lawmakers voided the licenses of nearly half of the approved medical marijuana dispensaries, which reduced the total number of approved dispensaries from 20 to 11. Of those 11 dispensaries, none will be able to open legally for business until 2015; and even then, most of those dispensaries still will not have any marijuana.

The license purge is not completely the Department of Public Health’s fault. At least three of the approved licenses had been obtained by former U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt. Apparently, Delahunt used his influence with the licensing board to obtain three dispensary licenses. One bad apple can spoil the bunch, and Delahunt did just that.

Regardless of the dispensary debacle, medical marijuana patients still should have been able to acquire medical marijuana from a caregiver, which is an approved individual that grows medical marijuana on behalf of a patient. In many states, caregivers can grow multiple plants for multiple patients, but not in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, it is one patient, one caregiver.

Due to the prohibitively expensive nature of growing marijuana indoors, one patient per caregiver is rendered impractical, both financially and logistically. Patients are legally able to grow medical marijuana for themselves, but if they are weak from cancer and chemo, odds are they won’t be able to work in a garden for most of their day.

According to The Boston Globe, the reason for the rule is that Massachusetts’ Gov. Deval Patrick met with law enforcement to see how to “best serve patients” while keeping marijuana out of the hands of non-patients. Isn’t it funny how whenever you ask some law enforcement officials what their opinion on anything marijuana related, they answer with limit it, ban it or lock them up?

Massachusetts lawmakers hope to have everything up and ready to go by 2015, but at this point many medical marijuana patients in Massachusetts are suspicious of the state government’s promise. Can you blame them?

This is a textbook example of how not to roll out your state’s medical marijuana program. If Colorado can roll out legalization in a year, something that hadn’t been done before, then it should be completely feasible for Massachusetts to do the same with medical marijuana.

Whether it’s politics or incompetence, Massachusetts has shown the rest of the nation how to bungle a no-brainer. Hopefully other states considering medical marijuana are studying Massachusetts and taking notes.

William Sumner, a freelance writer and marijuana journalist, was a staff writer for MJINews from May 2014 through February 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

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