Patients Protest MMJ Delay in Boston

On October 14, 2014, 50 protestors rallied outside the Department of Public Health in Boston to demand that the medical marijuana proposal be implemented. Two years ago, medical marijuana legislation passed in Massachusetts, but the slow process has prevented patients from obtaining the medicine they need and prevented business owners from providing necessary relief.

Severe government intervention in an otherwise civil matter has prolonged the delay of businesses opening, and thus, hindered the sale of marijuana. In retrospect, this delay has accounted for significant revenue loss. To be clear, while Massachusetts’ marijuana industry continues to miss out on revenue, the government has banked $3 million dollars in dispensary application fees.

Although a lot of people have been affected by delays in application processing, 7-year-old protester, Haley Osborn, specifically caught the media’s attention. Haley has been struggling with epilepsy since she was 2. Jill Osborn, Haley’s mother, hopes to treat her daughter with marijuana concentrates. As seen in the case of Charlotte from Colorado, a young girl who uses marijuana to control seizures, Haley could likely reduce the number of seizures she has with the help of medical marijuana. “They’re allowing her life to be in danger every day,” Osborn said.

In explaining government inactivity, Gov. Deval Patrick noted that “his administration was seeking to balance the law’s implementation with the proper vetting of applicants for medical marijuana dispensaries.” Although patients gathered in the hopes of seeing some progress, the implementation of medical marijuana is an inherently slow process.

Even in Colorado, where marijuana is recreationally consumed, potential dispensary owners must wait years before their application is reviewed. According to High Times, “new applications for [dispensary] businesses won’t even be considered until 2016.”

The Boston crowd chanted “two years, too late.”  Marijuana activist Mickey Martin said, “it’s unacceptable to make patients wait.” Although protestors and many other patients have had to wait for their medicine, moves are certainly being made, at this point, to accommodate the patients’ needs.

Dispensaries are in the “final inspection phase,” according to Health and Human Services Secretary, John Polanowicz. This means that once dispensaries “pass inspection and meet local requirements,” they will be ready for business. The state hopes to see its first dispensaries in operation by the end of this year.

Eleven cannabis dispensaries are anticipated to open in 2015. These include: William Noyes Webster Foundation (Dennis), Alternative Therapies Group (Salem), Healthy Pharms (Haverhill), New England Treatment Access (Northampton, Brookline), Central Ave. Compassionate Care (Ayer), Garden Remedies (Newton), Patriot Care Corp. (Lowell), Ermont Inc. (Quincy), In Good Health (Brockton) and Bay State Relief (Milford).

The protestors’ main motivation is to end the suffering of patients, as they call on DPH officials to “immediately open up the program.” They want their medicine available as soon as possible, but accessing medical marijuana requires patience. “The dispensary licensing process has been plagued by delays,” according to NECN, a news organization in New England.

In addition to the protestors who have their feet on the street, advocacy group MassCann–state affiliate of NORML–aligns with patients’ views. MassCann notes the importance of “rational public policy regarding all uses of the cannabis plant.” This includes the right for society to decide how cannabis should be regulated. Its primary goal mirrors that of the patients: marijuana legalization should be regarded as a social and cultural phenomenon. It should be left to the people to decide when and how marijuana will be regulated.

Overall, the implementation of medical marijuana in Massachusetts has proven to be more than frustrating, as made clear by 50 fed-up protestors. Although it takes patience, a lack of action on the state’s behalf has prolonged the suffering of those in need of medical marijuana, not to mention the financial suffering of new dispensary owners. If all goes as planned, then patients should be able to purchase their medication by the end of this year.

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