When Massachusetts voters chose to legalize medical marijuana in November 2012, few of them realized how many challenging issues still had to be resolved, including obtaining legal access to the medicine. Under the ballot initiative, and to comply with Massachusetts drug laws, strict procedures to operate nonprofit dispensaries are still being drafted by the state.
Many residents assumed that it would be fairly easy to open one of these medical marijuana clinics, unaware that specific financing, drug testing and other key issues still required proper handling and documentation. After all, the proper running of a dispensary is directly tied to the routine testing and monitoring of the marijuana being sold – making sure it’s as free of harmful contaminants as possible.
Key Challenges Involved in Opening New Dispensaries
- Proper Financing. According to a recent Huffington Post article, medical marijuana dispensaries or “pot shops” (as some are calling them) may have to prove to the state that they have $500,000 in an escrow account “before they can have a license to operate”
- Approved Ability to Test Marijuana Quality on a Regular, Ongoing Basis. A recent Boston Globe article noted that since the federal government still considers the sale of marijuana to be illegal, “few credible labs will test marijuana products for fear of losing federal government contracts.” However, Massachusetts is looking for a way to handle this concern without having to depend upon any outside states (like Maine) for help. Routine testing is required to be sure that all marijuana sold is free of any dangerous metals or other substances that could actually harm patients – while still being potent enough to actually help them;
- Location, Location, Location. Like residents of other states that have legalized medical marijuana, Massachusetts citizens are concerned about their new dispensaries attracting the “wrong element” into their neighborhoods. However, the state’s new regulations should help calm many or most of these fears – once they become finalized. Boston Public Health Commissioner Barbara Ferrer is one of the key government figures working diligently to make sure qualified patients in Massachusetts can obtain the medical marijuana they’re entitled to receive – once the fully licensed dispensaries are approved and ready to open;
- Proper Handling of Qualified Patient Paperwork. The new dispensaries or clinics will also have to carefully follow all DPH (Department of Public Health) regulations tied to checking the registration cards of the qualified patients who request the medical marijuana. Likewise, they must keep track of the designated caregivers who can help pick up the marijuana on behalf of patients with transportation or medical issues preventing them from picking up the substance themselves;
- Careful Background Screening of All Dispensary Personnel. Obviously, every effort must be made to hire only clinic employees without criminal records — who are properly trained to handle the marijuana and dispense it to the public.
When the Dispensaries May Actually Open
Although many patients are hoping that these dispensaries might open their doors within the next few months, Massachusetts officials recently indicated that the first ones may not be ready to open until the end of 2013.
Despite the impending access to legal medical marijuana, and decriminalization of small amount, it is still very possible to be arrested for possession of pot under Massachusetts drug laws.
If you are arrested on any criminal drug charge, contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Matson for a consultation and review of your legal rights.