More than 100 seek to open medical marijuana shops in Massachusetts

Rina Shah

In Massachusetts, 181 groups applied for permits to be nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries this week, reports Boston Magazine.  The Department of Public Health released a full list of the applicants, including the contact person and the group’s preferred county of service.  Middlesex County received the greatest number of applicants, with 47.  In contrast, Nantucket received only two.  Applicant groups included compassionate medicine practitioners, apothecaries, holding groups, holistic care centers, and numerous others.

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, Massachusetts is following in the footsteps of states like Washington and Colorado, who are aiming to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to the way in which alcohol is regulated.  In November 2012, 63 percent of Massachusetts voters approved a compassionate medical marijuana program, which allows qualified patients with written certification from a physician to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana.  They may also cultivate a limited supply if they are granted a hardship registration.

The Department of Public Health published final regulations in May 2013 for the medical marijuana program.  By January 1, 2014, the Department must certify at least 14, but no more than 35, medical marijuana dispensaries.  According to the Boston Globe website, prospective dispensaries had to hand-deliver the initial application by 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 22.  This puts applicants in the first phase of review, during with the Department of Public Health screens for financial viability and conducts background checks.  The second phase of the review invites prospective operators to submit final applications and a non-refundable $30,000 application fee.  A committee will be used to score the final applicants in order to make selections.  Reviews are on track to be completed in September with licenses awarded by the end of the year.

Around the U.S., views on marijuana are shifting, with a move towards support for legalization.  Public Policy Polling conducted a survey that found that more than half of the surveyed population believes it should be made legal.  One-third of those surveyed feel strongly that it should be made legal.  More than one-third of those surveyed believe that marijuana is safer than alcohol and 50 percent think marijuana will be legal throughout the U.S. under federal law within the next 10 years.  In general, there were approximately equal numbers of men and women in favor of legalization, with more Democrats and Independents in favor than Republicans.

The Drug Policy Alliance describes medical uses of marijuana.  For serious medical conditions such as cancer, AIDS, and glaucoma, marijuana is a proven pain reliever, offering a natural alternative to prescription painkillers.

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The Department of Public Health published final regulations in May 2013 for the medical marijuana program.

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