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May 13, 2013

State panel firms up med pot rules

BOSTON — After some adjustments to draft regulations, the Massachusetts Public Health Council has written into the state’s regulatory code rules governing the medical use of the recreational drug, which voters had set into law by passing a ballot proposal last November.

Since Jan. 1, the voter referendum had legalized an unregulated system, where a doctor’s note serves as license to grow and use marijuana for a medical purpose. The new regulations set in motion the licensure process for medical marijuana dispensaries, limits on how much marijuana a patient can generally use, and efforts to ensure access to low-income patients.

“Congratulations on a regulatory tour de force. Future regulators will be studying this, this process,” board member Paul Lanzikos told the Department of Public Health.

The final rules maintain the definition of 10 ounces as a 60-day supply, rely on doctors to determine if a patient has a “debilitating condition” that marijuana could treat, and raise the income level that would allow a patient to qualify for discounted marijuana or allow that person to apply for home cultivation.

Under the regulations approved last week, patients whose income is less than 300 percent of the federal poverty line would qualify. The draft rules featured a threshold of 133 percent of the poverty line.

While maintaining the requirement that medical marijuana treatment centers grow the marijuana themselves, prepare it for sale and serve as retailers as well, the final regulations allow for the transfer of up to 30 percent of its supply if there is a documented need, either patient-specific or following a blight or other disaster that might leave a dispensary lacking. The regulations go into effect on May 24.

The council also adopted council member John Cunningham’s amendment to refer to medical marijuana treatment centers as “a registered marijuana dispensary” in the code.

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