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.