Massachusetts

Massachusetts: Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Legalize And Tax Marijuana Like Alcohol

MassachusettsMarijuana

Measure with bipartisan support would establish a legal market for licensed businesses to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older

Massachusetts lawmakers this week introduced a bill that would make marijuana legal for adults and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.

H. 1561, sponsored by Rep. David Rogers (D-Belmont), Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville), and a bipartisan group of 13 co-sponsors, would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana. The bill would also establish a regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, processing facilities, and testing facilities.

“Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and to society, and it ought to be treated that way,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “There is a mountain of evidence demonstrating marijuana is less addictive than alcohol, less toxic, and less likely to contribute to violent and reckless behavior.

"Adults shouldn’t be punished for making the safer choice,” Simon said.

The Marijuana Policy Project plans to support a 2016 ballot initiative to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol if the legislature fails to pass such a measure sooner.

“Voters in Massachusetts are ready to end marijuana prohibition,” Simon said. “We hope their elected officials are, too. If the status quo is maintained in the legislature, change will occur at the ballot box.”

U.S.: Recovering Alcoholic Confirmed As Drug Czar, Takes Top Spot At ONDCP

DrugCzarMichaelBotticelliIsARecoveringAlcoholic

President Obama’s nominee for director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), acting director Michael Botticelli, was confirmed by the Senate 92-0 on Monday, granting him one of the nation’s highest drug-control offices.

A recovering alcoholic with extensive career experience in public health, the new “drug czar,” as he is informally known, has potential to take more of a public health approach than did his predecessors, including former Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske, the most recent officeholder, who was confirmed as Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection last March.

Botticelli has recently stated that Congress shouldn’t interfere with the will of D.C. voters to legalize marijuana, despite the ONDCP’s official stance on legalization. Last week, he was quoted in a conference call saying that the ONDCP will bar federal funding from drug courts that prevent access to medication-assisted treatment for opiate addiction.

Florida: Physician Dispensing Associated With Unnecessary Prescribing Of Opioids

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A new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) found evidence that physician dispensing encouraged some physicians to unnecessarily prescribe strong opioids. The study analyzed the prescribing behavior after Florida banned physician dispensing of strong opioids.

The authors of the study, "The Impact of Physician Dispensing on Opioid Use," expected little change in the percentage of patients getting strong opioids — only a change from physician-dispensed to pharmacy-dispensed. Instead of finding an increase in pharmacy-dispensed strong opioids, the study found no material change.

Rather, there was an increase in the percentage of patients receiving physician-dispensed weaker pain medications—specifically, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (e.g., ibuprofen)—from 24.1 percent to 25.8 percent, and the percentage receiving weaker (not banned) opioids increased from 9.1 percent to 10.1 percent.

The study found there was a high level of compliance with the ban by physician-dispensers. Prior to the reforms, 3.9 percent of injured workers received strong opioids dispensed by physicians during the first six months after their injuries. After the ban, only 0.5 percent of patients with new injuries received physician-dispensed strong opioids.

Massachusetts: Town Tries To Ban Tobacco

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The small town of Westminster, Massachusetts, made national headlines recently when local health authorities tried to make it the first place in the United States where no one would be allowed to buy cigarettes, e-cigs, cigars and chewing tobacco.

"The Board of Health permitting these establishments to sell these dangerous products than, when used as directed, kill 50 percent of its users, ethically goes against our public health mission," claimed Andrea Crete, chairwoman of the Board of Health, reports Katharine Seelye of The New York Times.

The plan resulted in what The Times called "white-hot fury" among the townspeople. Although only 17 percent of Westminster residents smoke -- many say they have never touched tobacco and find the habit disgusting -- they see the ban as an attack on individual liberties. It would also cripple eight retailers in town who primarily sell tobacco products.

A petition sits on the front counter at Vincent's Country Store in Westminster; it attracts more signatures every day. At last count, 1,200 people had signed, in a town of 7,400.

U.S.: MariMed Advisors Closes Acquisition of Sigal Consulting, $2 Million Working Capital

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There’s a new name making some waves in the medical marijuana space. Publicly traded Worlds Online subsidiary MariMed Advisors has closed on the acquisition of Sigal Consulting and $2 million in working capital.

Sigal Consulting, now known as MariMed Advisors, specializes in all aspects of medical marijuana, from licensing application to cultivation and sale.

Sigal designed the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center cultivation and dispensary facility in Providence, Rhode Island -- one of the largest state sanctioned dispensaries in the country.

"Closing this capital raise and acquisition demonstrates investor interest and confidence in our team and strategy for capturing significant market share in the developing medical marijuana sector," said Thom Kidrin, CEO of WORX. "These funds will allow us to expand our team and meet the demand from our growing pipeline of potential licensees in their efforts to gain authority to build and operate cultivation and dispensary operations."

While no assurance can be given that it will be successful, MariMed Advisors is in discussion with multiple capital sources in an attempt to secure additional funds for the acquisition of real estate and operational facilities needed to provide future licensees the operational capabilities to successfully operate under their licenses. This is a critical component for many licensees, as legacy regulations prevent financial institutions from financing such transactions for organizations in the medical marijuana industry, even in states where it has been legalized.

Massachusetts: Smell Of Marijuana Cannot Justify Search of Car

MarijuanaGavel

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Police officers in Massachusetts can no longer rely on the odor of unburnt marijuana as probable cause to justify a vehicle search, the state's Supreme Judicial Court unanimously ruled on Wednesday -- even if the smell is "strong" or "very strong," the justices said.

The court had already ruled in the Commonwealth v. Cruz decision in 2011 that the smell of burnt marijuana was not, in itself, sufficient evidence to stop pedestrians or search vehicles, reports John R. Ellement at The Boston Globe. The court said in that ruling that it would be "legally inconsistent" to allow the cops the make warrantless searches after they smell burned marijuana, when citizens had decided through a statewide referendum that law enforcement should "focus their attention elsewhere."

The court on Wednesday said it is now extending that same reasoning to cases where the owner has not yet started smoking the marijuana. The justices acknowledged that cannabis has a pungent aroma, but said that odor, by itself, does not allow police to determine whether a person has more than an ounce with them. Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is not a crime in Massachusetts, where voters chose to decriminalize pot in 2008.

Massachusetts Cracks Down On Medical Marijuana Caregivers

MassachusettsMarijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is cracking down on the state's booming cottage industry of medical marijuana caregivers who have been selling cannabis to meet the demand created by the state's medical marijuana law, adopted 18 months ago.

The state has sent letters to more than 1,300 patients, along with 17 caregivers, warning them that state regulations may prohibit any caregiver from selling marijuana to more than one patient, according to David Kibbe, spokesman for the Department of Health, report Shelley Murphy and Kay Lazar at The Boston Globe.

The caregivers are the only legal avenue for Massachusetts patients to buy medical marijuana until storefront dispensaries start to open -- and that won't happen before November at the earliest. Many of the caregivers advertise on the Internet.

The action angered many patients who rely on cannabis to relieve their symptoms.

"I have been put in a terrible situation," said David Tamarin, 41, a lawyer from North Andover whose doctor authorized him to use medical marijuana for chronic back pain and anxiety. Tamarin said he was outraged by the letter telling him he had to find another caregiver -- one who was not serving any other patients.

"The legalization of medical marijuana should make it easier, not more difficult, for a patient to get his medicine," Tamarind said.

Massachusetts: Group Plans 2016 Bid For Marijuana Legalization

MassachusettsMarijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Marijuana Policy Project is setting the stage for a 2016 marijuana legalization campaign in Massachusetts.

MPP, the Washington, D.C.-based group that organized and financed Colorado's Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana in that state, has opened a ballot committee with Massachusetts campaign finance regulators, reports Paul McMorrow at CommonWealth.

Executive Director Rob Kampia opened a ballot referendum committee with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance on Tuesday. The committee, called the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts, allows MPP to begin raising and spending money in the state.

MPP plans to put a cannabis legalization question on the ballot for the Presidential election year; it also plans on waging 2016 legalization campaigns in Arizona, California, Maine, Montana and Nevada. Alaska will vote on legalization in August, and Oregon will vote either this year or in 2016.

The Marijuana Policy Project spent $2 million in Colorado getting Amendment 64 approved; it passed by 10 percentage points, running more than five points ahead of President Obama in the state.

"We're going to be spending the next year working to build a coalition," said Mason Tvert, MPP's director of communications. "We really want to replicate the Colorado process, and not just the winning part.

Massachusetts: 7 Doctors Warned By DEA For Being Involved With Medical Marijuana

DEA-MaskedAgentsRaid

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Less than two weeks after the U.S. House passed a measure that would defund Drug Enforcement Administration raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, reports have begun to surface of DEA agents intimidating physicians trying to work with state-legal dispensaries in Massachusetts.

At least four more Massachusetts doctors recently received visits from the DEA agents, bringing to seven the number who got an unexpected ultimatum from the DEA for authorizing patients to use medical marijuana.

Federal investigators told the doctors they would have to "sever ties" with medical marijuana dispensaries or risk losing their license to prescribe medications, reports Kay Lazar at MThe Boston Globe.

Already, some doctors have been forced to resign their advisory positions with dispensaries, which Massachusetts voters agreed in 2012 to allow.

A spokeswoman at the DEA's headquarters in Washington, D.C., refused requests for an interview. The agency on Friday released a terse statement.

Massachusetts: MariMed Advisors Acquires Medical Marijuana Consulting Company Sigal

ThomasCSlaterCompassionCenter(logo)

Worlds Online Inc. (“WORX”) announced this week it has entered into a agreement to have its subsidiary, MariMed Advisors, Inc., acquire Sigal Consulting LLC, a Massachusetts-based developer of medical marijuana licenses and operations. It is anticipated that the closing will occur in three to four weeks, according to a press release from both companies.

Sigal is the company that designed the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center cultivation and dispensary facility in Providence, Rhode Island, and works with other medical marijuana growers and dispensaries throughout the United States. The acquisition offers Sigal access to the public markets that can provide expansion capital and a first-to-market advantage, according to Julie Shepherd of Accentuate PR.

Upon closing, Sigal Consulting will operate through MariMed Advisors, Inc., as a majority-owned subsidiary of WORX. This acquisition will serve to diversify WORX’s operational business into the growing licensed medical marijuana industry.

“Medical marijuana is a rapidly expanding market that is expected to double in the next five years,” said Worlds Online CEO Thom Kidrin. “The combination of this large emerging market opportunity and Sigal Consulting team’s years of successful experience and industry leadership will provide an opportunity for us to add significant value to our shareholders and a potentially great opportunity for growth.”

Massachusetts: Medical Marijuana Advocates Rally At State Capitol

MassachusetetsPatientAdvocacyAlliance

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

More than three dozen medical marijuana patients and advocates rallied at the Massachusetts Statehouse on Thursday as a legislative committee held a hearing on a bill to legalize, tax and regulate recreational marijuana.

The attendees said that Governor Deval Patrick's administration needs to expedite the process for licensing and opening medical marijuana dispensaries so that they can have safe access, reports Philip Marcelo at the Associated Press.

The advocates, organized by the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, said that the state is dragging its feet in registering dispensaries; it's been more than 100 laws since state law mandated that the process begin. While 20 applicants have been given provisional dispensary licenses, according to Massachusetts Department of Public Health spokesman David Kibbe, none have final approval.

Kibbe said he's still in the process of verifying the applications, and claimed that the department is trying to achieve the "appropriate balance" between safe access for patients and public concerns.

Massachusetts also needs to increase the number of patients to whom individual caregivers may sell marijuana, according to the group.

Massachusetts: Lawmakers To Hold Hearing On Bill To Regulate And Tax Marijuana Like Alcohol

MassachusettsMarijuana

Joint Committee on the Judiciary to consider H. 1632, which would establish a legal market for businesses to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older

The Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing Thursday on a bill that would make possession of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. ET in Room A-2 of the Massachusetts State House.

H. 1632 would eliminate criminal penalties for adults 21 years of age and older if they possess or cultivate marijuana for personal use. It would also create a Cannabis Control Authority, which would establish licenses, collect taxes, and regulate the production, processing, and sale of marijuana to adults.

"Marijuana prohibition has been just as colossal a failure as alcohol prohibition," said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), who is scheduled to testify during the hearing. "Marijuana is less toxic than alcohol, less addictive, and less likely to contribute to violent or reckless behavior.

"Most voters think it's time to stop punishing adults who make the safer choice, and we hope their elected officials will agree," Simon said.

A majority of Massachusetts voters likely to vote in the November 2014 midterm election (53 percent) support making marijuana legal, according to a Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll released in February. Just 37 percent were opposed.

Massachusetts: Boston Mayor Says He Will Block Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

BostonMayorMartinJWalsh

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh this week moved to block the opening of two medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, saying he's "dead set" against the shops at a forum in Dorchester and then sending a letter to state officials urging "swift action" if any problems are found with the companies' applications.

"I am writing to express my serious concern regarding the two registered marijuana dispensary applicants in the city of Boston," the mayor wrote in a Tuesday letter addressed to Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz, and to Executive Director Karen Van Unen of the state's medical marijuana program, reports Meghan E. Irons at The Boston Globe.

Questions remain about the two companies, Mayor Walsh claimed. Green Heart Holistic Health & Pharmaceuticals Inc. wants to open a 3,000-square-foot dispensary at 70 Southampton Street, and Good Chemistry of Massachusetts Inc. plans a shop on Boylston Street.

The mayor urged "swift and uniform action" if inaccuracies are found in the applications, saying that would bolster confidence in the regulatory process.

"If any information provided in either application is confirmed to be inaccurate, I ask that the Department of Public Health immediately eliminate that application from being eligible for a final certification of registration," Mayor Walsh wrote.

Massachusetts: Advocates Lay Groundwork For Marijuana Legalization

MassachusettsMarijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Marijuana advocates are laying the groundwork for legalization in Massachusetts in 2016, the next presidential election year.

State voters approved decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis in 2008, and legalized its use for medicinal purposes in 2012, both with more than 63 percent support, reports Joshua Miller at the Boston Globe. advocates have launched an effort to get legalization on the 2016 ballot, and to raise enough money to ensure victory.

But some say Massachusetts' strong traditions will make legal marijuana a tough sell.

"To make it available for recreational use, that's going over a very different barrier," said state Rep. Ellen Story (D-Amherst), explaining it was easy for her to support decrim and medical marijuana, but not legalization. "I'm not sure people in the state are ready for that and I'm certainly not sure I'm ready for that."

But the tides of public opinion are shifting on cannabis.

"Opinion is changing very quickly on marijuana," said Steve Koczela, president of MassINC Polling Group. The rapid change, he said, "mirrors, in some ways, the same-sex marriage shift that's taken place over the last few years."

Massachusetts: Activists Push For Full Marijuana Legalization

MassachusettsMarijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Massachusetts voters have already approved medical marijuana, and have decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis for recreational use by adults. Now activists are pushing for the full legalization of marijuana for adults, putting it on equal footing with alcohol and cigarettes.

The group Bay State Repeal said it plans to put a proposal on the 2016 general election ballot, reports Steve LeBlanc at The Associated Press. The group said it plans to first test various versions of the measure by placing non-binding referendums on next year's midterm ballot in about a dozen districts.

The non-binding questions will help gauge voter support for different versions of the binding initiative for 2016, according to Bay State Repeal.

Massachusetts voters in 2008 approved a ballot initiative decriminalizing adult possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, making it a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine.

Of course, there are the usual naysayers. Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett claimed cannabis can lead young people to hard drugs and other harmful behaviors.

"I'm not saying everyone who tries marijuana becomes a heroin addict, but the medical information is irrefutable that kids who start smoking marijuana are more likely to have substance abuse problems as adults," Blodgett, president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, claimed.

Massachusetts: Former Congressman Wants To Open 3 Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

BarackObamaAndWilliamDelahunt

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Former U.S. Representative William D. Delahunt wants to get into the medical marijuana business. Delahunt, a former Congressman from Massachusetts and longtime Norfolk County District Attorney, has filed applications with the state to open dispensaries in Plymouth, Taunton and Mashpee.

Delahunt said that his past experience as both a district attorney (for 21 years) and as a member of Congress make him especially well-suited to operate medical marijuana dispensaries. He represented the former 10th Congressional District in Massachusetts for seven terms, from 1997 to 2011.

Massachusetts has received 100 applications to open dispensaries; the law limits the number to 35 statewide, including at least one per county, but no more than five, reports Patrick Ronan at the Quincy Patriot Ledger.

The Massachusetts Department of Health on Friday released information on the 100 applications for dispensaries it has received, including the applicants' names and the cities and towns in which they want to open stores. Massachusetts' medical marijuana law requires that all dispensaries be run by nonprofits.

The state will announce its final selections on January 31 for the 35 available licenses, according to spokesman David Kibbe.

Massachusetts: Bay State Repeal Hopes To Get Rid Of Marijuana Prohibition In 2016

BayStateRepeal

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Cannabis activists are working to put full marijuana law repeal before Massachusetts voters during the next presidential election, in 2016.

"We won't have to have it on the ballot again after we've finally repealed the prohibition," said activist William Downing, treasuer of ballot committee Bay State Repeal, reports Andy Metzger at MassLive.com.

Repeal, unlike legalization, doesn't create more laws around cannabis -- it repeals all those already on the books.

Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to restrict marijuana, according to Downing, prohibiting doctors from prescribing cannabis in 1913, well before federal marijuana laws were passed in 1937. Downing, an activist since 1989, said he sees parallels between the marijuana movement and the people who repealed alcohol prohibition.

Bay State Repeal wants to put non-binding "public policy" questions about getting rid of the marijuana laws before voters in 2014, before writing the binding language for the 2016 ballot as an initiative petition.

"A lot more people vote generally when there's a presidential election and we do better when a lot more people vote because this is a populist issue," Downing said.

Predictably, "family" and "anti-drug" groups oppose the measure.

Massachusetts: Prospective Dispensary Owners Question Officials About Moratoriums

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Prospective medical marijuana entrepreneurs on Thursday warned that moratoriums in Massachusetts communities are severely hampering their site searches, and that the state might need to give applicants some flexibility in specifying the locations of shops and cultivation centers.

Members of the Massachusetts Department of Health were peppered with questions during a two-hour session about the licensing process for medical marijuana businesses, including the problems created by temporary dispensary bans in certain towns, reports Dan Ring at The Republican.

More than 400 attendees showed up for the event at the Somerville Holiday Inn, because it was the only pubic meeting the state will have on the licensing process before a November 21 deadline for submitting final applications for medical cannabis licenses. State officials plan to announce the awarding of licenses on January 31.

With moratoriums across Massachusetts limiting prospective locations, Fotis Loulourgas of Needham, CEO of a company which wants a medical marijuana license, asked if the state will insist that applicants list definite addresses of planned dispensaries.

"If that's the case, we are all looking at the same five buildings," he said.

Massachusetts: Doctors Advised Not To Authorize Patients For Medical Marijuana

NoMarijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Massachusetts has a new medical marijuana law, approved by a vast majority of voters last November. But doctors at community health centers have been advised not to authorize any more of their more than 638,000 patients for medical marijuana, because the centers are afraid they'll lose their federal funding.

The Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers has advised its 36 federally funded facilities to stop issuing patient marijuana authorizations under state law because cannabis use remains illegal for any purpose under federal law, reports Kay Lazar at The Boston Globe.

Health center physicians who authorize patients for medical marijuana could be committing a "potential violation of federal law and could result in legal and financial exposure for community health centers," according to a spineless statement from the League.

Voters approved a ballot initiative last November, making Massachusetts one of 20 medical marijuana states (plus the District of Columbia). Federally funded community health centers in other states have also advised doctors against authorizing patients to use marijuana.

Massachusetts: Researchers Find Marijuana Has No Impact On Healthcare Utilization

MarijuanaWhatsTheBigDeal?

No Health Differences Were Found Between Daily Marijuana Users and Those Using No Marijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Frequency of marijuana use is not measurably associated with the utilization of health services or with health status, according to findings from researchers at Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine.

As the most popular "illegal drug," the impact of cannabis upon health has become a hot topic as marijuana's legal status changes across the United States.

The researchers studied 589 adults who showed up positive for drug use at a primary case visit. Those patients were asked about their drug use, emergency room use and hospitalizations, and their overall health status. Information about other medical diagnoses was obtained from their medical records.

Researchers found the vast majority of the study sample -- 84 percent -- used marijuana. Twenty-five percent used cocaine, 23 percent used opioids and eight percent used other drugs. Fifty-eight percent reported using cannabis, but no other drugs.

No differences were found between daily marijuana users and those using no marijuana, whether looking at emergency-room visits, at hospitalizations, at medical diagnoses or at overall health status.

It is common for users of illicit drugs to use both cannabis and another drug, according to the researchers; therefore, knowing the incremental effects of marijuana upon health in such a situation is important.

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