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February 18, 2013

Med group raises red flags on pot law

BOSTON — While it plans to provide detailed testimony during upcoming regulatory hearings, the trade group that represents doctors in Massachusetts raised a host of questions before state officials last week during a Department of Health “listening session” regarding the state’s new medical marijuana law.

Among the concerns raised by the 24,000-member Massachusetts Medical Society: that patient certifications under the law become part of the state’s prescription monitoring program, that regulations take into account implications of medical marijuana use on occupational health and safety, and that the language in the 2012 ballot law regarding certification of debilitating medical conditions is “overly broad.”

The medical society believes policies adopted in December, after the ballot law was approved, will help the Department of Public Health “create a regulatory framework that supports responsible implementation of the law.”

Other issues that need consideration, according to the medical society, include treatment dosages, the duration of certifications, and the amount of an appropriate supply.

Since November’s passage of the ballot initiative, a number of city and town officials across the state have also grappled with where or how to place the “dispensary” centers outlined in the bill, which gained widespread support and gained voter approval in every city and town except Lawrence.

Some North Shore communities have already moved to block any dispenssaries from their cities and towns, including Peabody. But city and town officials have not yet taken up formal discussion of hosting – or barring — any potential dispensaries in Gloucester or in any of Cape Ann’s towns. The ballot referendum called for up to five dispensaries and at least one in each of Massachusetts’ counties, including Essex, which covers all of Cape Ann..

Separately, the Massachusetts Public Health Association, in a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday, said the language of the ballot law leaves unanswered questions about the definition of qualifying medical conditions, the minimum age of patients, limits on the number of patients a caregiver can have, and the including of marijuana in foods and beverages.

Association Executive Director Toby Fisher urged regulators to learn lessons from other states, discuss siting issues with local officials, and craft rules to avoid diversion of marijuana “to illicit and youth usage.”

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