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Sen. Keenan Calls for Tightening Medical Marijuana Law, Delaying Implementation

Among other measures, a bill proposed by Keenan would distinguish between minors and adults, require in-person doctor examinations and a nine-month delay.

The below is a press release issued by the Office of Sen. John Keenan, D- Quincy, on Friday. Attached are more details on the medical marijuana legislation.

Calling the state and local communities woefully unprepared to begin implementing the Commonwealth‟s new medical marijuana law on January 1, 2013, Sen. John F. Keenan (D-Quincy) today called on his colleagues to join him in seeking a delay in the law and announced legislation he will be introducing in the next session that will close loopholes and strengthen safeguards in the statute.

Sen. Keenan‟s legislation, first announced during a Friday morning radio interview on 95.9 WATD-FM and in an e-mail message to legislators in the afternoon, comes on the heels of many concerns voiced over the recent passage of Question 3 in the November election, which legalizes marijuana for medical
use in Massachusetts.

“I believe strongly that the provisions of Question 3 create a rushed and haphazard policy,” Keenan said in the e-mail message to colleagues. “The introduction of medical marijuana in Massachusetts poses challenges, as would the introduction of any new addictive substance that is untested in medical practice, and the creation of a new multi-million dollar industry with statewide impacts. Yet the ballot question is not accompanied by any meaningful regulations or safeguards against abuse.”

Since the passage of Question 3 at state elections last month, local governments have reacted with alarm and confusion over the prospect of marijuana dispensaries in their communities. Quincy and Westborough have voted to send official requests to the State House for a delay in the law‟s
implementation. Reading, Wakefield and Saugus have banned marijuana dispensaries outright, but it is unclear whether such restrictions would conflict with state law. Several other towns and cities are considering or have already taken similar steps.

Acting on these, and his own, concerns, Sen. Keenan has asked for a 9 month delay in the implementation of any medical marijuana program. He says this would allow time for local governments to properly plan, and for the Department of Public Health to write adequate regulations to ensure the program is administered safely.

Keenan also announced that he will be filing a „comprehensive fix bill‟ to the law at the start of the next legislative session. He says the legislation would still provide relief to patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions. But the program he proposes differs in several ways from what was included in Question 3.

Specifically, the new bill would:

  • Create a distinction between adults and minor patients, requiring parental consent for minors to be prescribed and to use marijuana.
  • Establish a secure two-tiered distribution system that removes retail marijuana shops from local communities, and eliminate the need for home cultivation by any patient.
  • Require that marijuana prescriptions be reported in the state‟s Prescription Monitoring Program, which helps physicians identify warning signs of addiction and prevent “doctor shopping” for excessive quantities of prescription drugs.
  • Allow marijuana prescriptions only from doctors licensed and practicing in Massachusetts, and require in-person examinations and consultations with patients requesting marijuana.

While he remains opposed to legalization, Keenan says he recognizes the message that voters sent to lawmakers in November.

“The voters have expressed their will for a safe space for the use of marijuana in medical treatment. It is now our responsibility to provide a balanced and responsible program that meets that intent,” read his message.

Seventeen other states and Washington D.C. have also legalized marijuana use, and many have since struggled with the safe implementation of medical marijuana programs. In Colorado studies have found that between 48 and 74 percent of surveyed youth in recovery programs have used another person‟s
medical marijuana, and drug trafficking cases in at least 14 other states have traced illegal marijuana back to Colorado dispensaries.

In California, Scott Imler, who was a primary author of the law that legalized medical marijuana in that state in 1996, has said that his law was intended as “something for seriously ill people,” but has since “turned into a joke.” Most of the legal dispensaries today are “little more than dope dealers with store fronts,” Imler has said in past interviews.

Delaware has hesitated to license any dispensaries, after receiving correspondence from the Department of Justice in February of this year. The U.S. Attorney of that state wrote to the Governor‟s office that DOJ retains authority to prosecute all activities related to marijuana, and that even state employees acting under state law to administer a marijuana program would not be considered immune from liability.

Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, listed by the FDA as a “Schedule I” drug that has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

Alex da Veiga December 22, 2012 at 02:49 PM
"The introduction of any new addictive substance" Cannabis is not addictive... The people that are shaping the legislation, should do some research on the subject. "Eliminate the need for home cultivation by any patient" Really? If people can grow their medicine in their own yards, why would you make them buy it?
Joey Ismail December 22, 2012 at 03:22 PM
What is this nonsense? What new substance? Does this idiot think marijuana isn't everywhere, on every street, in every neighborhood right now as we speak? We aren't talking about some deadly/addictive pill being unleashed on the people. We are talking about nontoxic plant that has been around everyone for EVER. This idiot needs to be put in his place. Addictive? Really, that must be some new form of weed I've never heard about. The people have spoken on this issue, their decision is FINAL. The time for hand wringing and fear mongering has passed. If he wanted to draft the medical marijuana legislation, he should have. What stopped him? Why have the sick been left to rot while state after state approved medical marijuana and this clown did nothing? The people had to stand up and do his job for him, now he has the arrogance to complain the job wasn't done up to his standards? Not only is this a punch in the gut to every terminally ill person in the state, its a slap in the face to the voters, and a spit in the eye of democracy. This clown has to go.
ADumbledore December 22, 2012 at 04:07 PM
It may not be as addictive but it is addictive. I.e. From the National Institute on drug Abuse http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-abuse/marijuana-addictive "Long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction; that is, people have difficulty controlling their drug use and cannot stop even though it interferes with many aspects of their lives. It is estimated that 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it. The number goes up to about 1 in 6 in those who start using young (in their teens) and to 25-50 percent among daily users. Moreover, a study of over 300 fraternal and identical twin pairs found that the twin who had used marijuana before the age of 17 had elevated rates of other drug use and drug problems later on, compared with their twin who did not use before age 17." Did you read the bill? He is trying to put a better framework around the execution of the law. If you truly want it for pain, why would you not want it regulated like any other pain medication.
mar rnyanop December 22, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Anything can be addictive given the right personality. This includes pot. Also why don't you read about towns where dispensaries popped up like crazy-so did crime. Stop trying to gloss over the rights of families who.don't begrudge you your habits but don't want it near there family. You want minors to have access? I've seen people addicted to pot. Smoking 5 Times a day? I think so.
rationalhuman December 22, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Senator Keegan's proposal is a cynical and cowardly attempt to eviscerate the law on multiple fronts and nullify the will of the voters. Senator Keegan would require individual "prescriptions" for cannabis. Under Federal law, no doctor in the U.S. may prescribe cannabis; to do so would result, at minimum, in loss of prescribing privileges and would likely lead to loss of license or prosecution. Successful medical cannabis programs, therefore, must provide for physician recommendation. Senator Keegan's proposal would effectively nullify the medical cannabis program as mandated by voters. Senator Keegan would insert State regulators between doctors and patients by having DPH determine qualifying medical conditions. I doubt many patients or doctors wish to have a government administrator making treatment decisions. As a regulatory act, such decisions will be subject to appeal. Virtually each patient has a unique complex of illness and symptoms. Senator Keegan's proposal would require a new layer of Administrative Law judges to review DPH deteminations on nearly every patient. Of course, all of this would, by law be confidential. Senator Keegan's own fact sheet misrepresents the law as passed. "Question 3" does provide a mechanism to provide revenues to offset DPH's administrative costs. Those are to be determined in rulemaking he now seeks to avoid. Beacon Hill lawmakers need to be smarter than Senator Keegan.
Weedbay Guy December 22, 2012 at 11:36 PM
What a pantload. The 35 proposed dispensaries will each provide a dozen jobs with benefits where before there were zero jobs. Medical marijuana distribution is a mature industry with inventory control plans that track marijuana from seed to sale. It’s dispensed in a safe, secure environment and the non-profit nature of a dispensary means it benefits the community. Consider the Purple Heart dispensary in Oakland that donated $100k for the Oakland Police gun buyback program that paid $200 per gun collected to take guns off Oakland’s streets. Low income patients should be allowed to grow their own medicine.
John Keith December 23, 2012 at 02:56 AM
If this man wants to change the law, I suggest he collect the necessary signatures and submit it as a referendum question.
LCT December 23, 2012 at 07:27 AM
"...the non-profit nature of a dispensary means it benefits the community". Where is it written that this so-called "medical marijuana" will be a non-profit? Surely, you jest. And I cannot wait to have a "dispensary" in my neighborhood. I always enjoy being around those that are high as kites, stoned senseless. Will do wonders for home property values. Also, what assurance do those of us who actually pay income/homeowners taxes have that we will not get stuck paying for said "medication" for the low-income patients? How long do you think it will be before someone shows up at a dispensary with their EBT card on our dime? You want to fry your brains and walk around in a haze, be my guest. Just don't get behind the wheel of your car, accidentally walk into traffic or do other stupid hazardous things. Keep it away from kids and my front yard. Frankly I don't know how anyone smokes that crap, it smells like a mixture of cow dung, ground up rubber bands & pencil shavings. BTW, an MD on TV said 3 joints have as much harmful carcinogens as one pack of cigarettes. I take comfort in the fact that in Boston I can't legally smoke a cigarette in Boston Common but I can now smoke a joint. What a bunch of hypocrites. Can we now assume the same no-smoking laws will be equally applied to grass? I certainly don't want to stay in a hotel room, etc., right after someone was smoking pot in the room; it smells worse than cigarettes, pipes and cigars all put together.
LCT December 23, 2012 at 07:42 AM
"Senator Keegan would insert State regulators between doctors and patients by having DPH determine qualifying medical conditions. I doubt many patients or doctors wish to have a government administrator making treatment decisions. "Virtually each patient has a unique complex of illness and symptoms. Senator Keegan's proposal would require a new layer of Administrative Law judges to review DPH deteminations on nearly every patient. Of course, all of this would, by law be confidential." Congratulations. Substitute 'Feds' for State Regulators/DPH & you have just described the basics of Obamacare, except the Feds will have unfettered access to all our medical records.
Weedbay Guy December 23, 2012 at 11:08 AM
The dispensaries will be non-profit mutual benefits companies, read the bill. You think dispensaries drive home values down and crime up, but according to the Rand studies the well lit dispensaries with security personnel drive crime down. The people who want to engage in the industry are well financed and well connected who can certainly pay the taxes and fees. The bill doesn't allow for public consumption, so another one of your points is muted. Most likely the medicine will be analyzed mold, fungus and other impurities whether the law calls for it or not. As the bill stands now low income patients can grow their own for free, if you want to put restrictions on them then I stil doubt you'll be buying anyone's medicine.
Byron December 23, 2012 at 02:56 PM
The Boston Beer Company (brewer of Samuel Adams Boston Lager) is a major force in MA. Interestingly, all alcoholic beverages are technically class 1 carcinogens, since the FDA recently stated that acetaldehyde in conjunction with alcohol is class 1 carcinogen. Most alcoholic beverages contain acetaldehyde, and large amounts of acetaldehyde are always produced in the oral cavity and other parts of the body when alcohol is consumed. There's also a boatload of big pharma there too, and a handful of tobacco companies. I wonder if a state politician who is against safe, non-toxic cannabis might be favoring local alcohol, tobacco, and drug companies?
AMF December 23, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Time for Senator Keegan to lose his seat.
Byron December 23, 2012 at 04:30 PM
A lethal dose of Tylenol is 4 grams. That's only 8 500 mg pills. Children's Tylenol is often sold as bottles with 100 325 mg pills.
john mason January 03, 2013 at 11:23 PM
what"s the matter your function i thought that we voted to for medical marijuana ?????????????????????? or am i living somewhere outs to reside of the U.S.A. i think it"s about time we all let our " so called" corrupt official"s leader"s i think it"s time for civil war on our so called leader"s they rob cheat take what ever they want use the law"s against us !!the filthy crook"s !!
john mason January 03, 2013 at 11:28 PM
who the heck is sen. keegan think he is i hope he drop"s dead of alcahol or tabbaco !! marijuana is not a bad drug and before i die of scerousis of the liver i will see sen. keenan died before me !!
john mason January 03, 2013 at 11:51 PM
you"ve seen people addicted to marijuana five times a week !! what about the other two day"s sit back And smoke a fatty !! sen. keenan what do you think ?? owe ya your not against the tabbacco and lung disease or alcahol which causes liver damage ?? have you ever heard of some ass hole getting drunk and punching there wifes and kids out ?? you know it"s true i used to drink and get into bar fight"s all of the time when i was only 15 or sixteen but ever since i fell three stories 22 years ago i"ve been hooked on opiot"s ever since my accident and they never did really work !!but then i tried marijuana about ten years ago and owe my GOD i couldn"t have felt any better !! it never truely kill"s the pain but it takes the edge off like you wouldn"t believe but sen. keenan i hope you have an accident where you need something for the pain !! because i would love see you on all kinds of opiot"s like me there very addictive and are far worst any other drug !!

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