On November 6, 2012, the people in the state election approved “An Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana” as Chapter 369 of the 2012 Acts, which are part of the Session Laws.
This act effectively removed the punishment (under state law only, not federal law) for “qualifying patients, physicians, and health care professionals, personal caregivers for patients, or medical marijuana treatment center agents for the medical use of marijuana.”
The act also established a process by which Massachusetts residents could legally cultivate, purchase, and administer marijuana. Patients, caregivers, and medical marijuana treatment center dispensary agents have to possess a valid registration card and are known as “card holders.” Medical marijuana treatment centers growing marijuana specifically for medical purposes have to obtain a cultivation registration.
Patients qualify for medical marijuana registration cards through their physician, and their medical conditions have to be classified as debilitating. This covers cancer, glaucoma, HIV positive status, AIDS, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, MS (multiple sclerosis), and others.
The Medical Use of Marijuana Program
After the medical marijuana act above was passed, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts established the Medical Use of Marijuana Program, which is run as a state government program. It’s classified under both the Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality and the Department of Public Health.
They are the ones distributing registration cards, so that patients can have access to marijuana for medical use. This program registers patients, health care providers who are specifically qualified to diagnose severe medical conditions, Registered Marijuana Dispensaries (RMD), RMD agents, and personal caregivers.
This is the only program in the state qualified to give out registration cards to the above applicants. Also, only Massachusetts residents and caregivers are qualified for medical marijuana purchase.
Obtaining Your Medical Marijuana Card
In order to get a medical marijuana card in Massachusetts, you first have to schedule an appointment with a health care provider who’s been registered under the Medical Use of Marijuana Program. Your local physician may or may not be registered, so call and check with them first.
During the appointment, your health care provider will certify you as a qualifying patient and recommend medical marijuana as a treatment option for your condition. Then, they will give you certification and a specific and unique PIN number.
Go the Medical Use of Marijuana Program website above and fill out a registration application using the PIN number. You’ll also need a current, acceptable form of identification, a current photo of yourself, and an accepted form of payment. It costs $50 to register and $10 for each replacement card. According to the website, applications are reviewed in the order they’re received.
Approximately 1-2 weeks after application approval, your plastic Program ID card will be mailed to you.
Visiting a Registered Marijuana Dispensary (RMD)
Your physician, health care provider, or local store are not qualified to sell or prescribe specific dosage amounts of marijuana. This medical substance is only available through registered marijuana dispensaries, which are staffed by RMD agents. As of April 2018, there are 26 RMDs who’ve received their registration and are open for business in Massachusetts. They are non-profit entities and are more similar to state-sponsored treatment centers than retail businesses.
To purchase your medical marijuana, call one of the RMDs and schedule an appointment. Each location is in a secure facility for customers, and only qualified patients and caregivers are allowed on the property. Marijuana is considered a federally illegal substance, so it’s against the law to ship it through the US Postal Service or shippers like UPS and FedEx.
Trained RMD agents (who are also registered with the Medical Use of Marijuana Program) are allowed to visit with and prescribe dosage amounts to patients and caregivers. They answer individual questions and assist with purchase decisions.
Medical marijuana is currently not covered under any state or national health insurance plan, so the cost is out of pocket for you. Also, under federal credit banking laws, you can only purchase medical marijuana by cash or debit card. It’s a felony to purchase marijuana with a credit card. Many RMDs limit purchase size, with the most common amount being one ounce per visit.
Massachusetts Marijuana Cultivation
Marijuana cultivators also have to register with the Medical Use of Marijuana Program. As of now, the cultivation and purchase of medical marijuana usually takes place in the same RMD facility. The marijuana is grown, processed, and made available for purchase all on site. Medical marijuana cannot be shipped through the mail, so RMDs can’t interchange plants or set up an off-site growing facility that then requires shipping.
Massachusetts Drugged Driving
Under both state and federal law, you can be prosecuted and found guilty of a DUI (driving under influence) after imbibing marijuana, even the medical kind. The state has also set up sobriety checkpoints. So, if you are using medical marijuana or need to get registered for it, carry copies of your registration paperwork in your car and keep these laws in mind.