State health agency offers overhaul of medical marijuana regulations
By State House News Service | September 16, 2016, 6:52 EDT
STATE HOUSE — Nurse practitioners would be allowed to certify patients for medical marijuana and dispensaries would be allowed to post product prices on their websites, under new regulations proposed by the Department of Public Health.
The changes, according to state health officials, build off of lessons learned during the first three years of experience with medical marijuana in Massachusetts.
The current set of regulations, implemented after a 2012 ballot initiative authorized the medicinal use of marijuana in the state, require potential patients to register with the state after a physician certifies they qualify for the program.
As of August 31, there were 167 physicians registered with the medical marijuana program and 29,999 active patients, according to the DPH.
The proposed regulatory changes, according to a presentation made to the Public Health Council Wednesday, would also “allow healthcare providers more flexibility to certify for less than 10 ounces for 60 day supply.”
Another amendment seeks to clarify language around background checks for agents of registered medical marijuana dispensaries, as part of a move away from “the competitive procurement-like process of the first year” of the medical marijuana program to a “standards-based and compliance-focused application process.”
Seven medical marijuana dispensaries — in Salem, Ayer, Brockton, Northampton, Brookline, Lowell and Boston — are now operational, according to the DPH.
Under the proposed regulations, dispensaries would be required to maintain a policy on cash-handling, and would be authorized to use motion-detection cameras with “adequate recording” and “alternative security safeguards” instead of a second backup alarm company.
Aimed at protecting patient safety, enhancing access and encouraging transparency, a series of amendments address labeling of products offered by dispensaries. Labels would need to include warnings regarding pregnancy and breastfeeding, and the regulatory language would be clarified to allow dispensaries to post price lists online.
The amendments were proposed as part of an ongoing regulatory review and reform process across all state agencies, initiated by an executive order from Gov. Charlie Baker. “They embody common sense reforms to simplify and clarify the regulation and emphasize the program’s ongoing goal of being transparent, streamlined, and efficient,” DPH officials wrote in their presentation on the rules.
The governor is one of the leading opponents of a ballot question legalizing general adult use of marijuana.
The Department of Public Health will hold a public hearing and a public comment period before returning to the Public Health Council with a request to promulgate the proposed regulations.
— Written by Katie Lannan
Copyright State House News Service