California pot RX: legal in MA?

Burning Questions
By VALERIE VANDE PANNE  |  January 15, 2013


My boyfriend has a medical-marijuana card from California. Will dispensaries in Massachusetts accept that? Can he legally grow his own plants here in Massachusetts now that medical-marijuana legislation has passed?

"At this time, in order to use, possess, and cultivate your own 60-day supply of marijuana, you only need a written certification from your doctor," says Shaleen Title, associate at Vicente Sederberg, a Colorado-based law firm that just opened an office in Boston. "The Massachusetts medical-marijuana law requires that this certification be signed by a licensed physician, but it's silent as to whether that physician needs to be licensed in Massachusetts."

Title also advises that your boyfriend be mindful that his California physician's certification follows all Massachusetts requirements, including specifying the ailment he uses marijuana for, and that the potential benefits of marijuana outweigh its risks.

While his California patient card probably doesn't have that info, his physician could write a certification meeting Massachusetts's requirements.

But before growing, "First you get your certification," says Dick Evans, of Evans Cutler, a Northampton-based law firm specializing in medical marijuana. "Then you can cultivate in an enclosed, locked facility, but you can't cultivate more than a 60-day supply."

"When the regulations are issued and an application process for a patient registration card is put in place, the answer will be clearer," says Title, pointing out that all this can change, once the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has issued its regulations.

For now, following the initiative and being discreet will help avoid unnecessary trouble.

The government tracks prescriptions for drugs like Oxycontin. Will Massachusetts's medical-marijuana dispensaries become part of those systems?

"The whole medical-marijuana program is separate from prescription drugs," says Evans.

A state's medical-marijuana program is not a part of a state's prescription-drug-monitoring program, primarily because medical marijuana is never a prescription.

"We don't use the word 'prescription' when we talk about medical marijuana, because it is not a prescription," says Evans. When you get your certification or recommendation from your doctor, "it's a statement, an okay" to use medical marijuana.

"Marijuana is not a drug for which prescriptions can be written," Evans continues. "Under the Controlled Substances Act, doctors couldn't prescribe marijuana if they wanted to."

The Controlled Substances Act is a law that classifies drugs in schedules. Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug. This means no prescriptions may be written for it, and that it has no federally recognized medicinal use.

As Title pointed out previously, we really don't know what the Department of Public Health's regulations will be, but since marijuana can't be prescribed, it is unlikely to become a part of prescription-drug-monitoring programs.

Is it gonna be harder for me to get illegal weed now?

"Aboslutely not," asserts attorney Steve Epstein, saying that this is despite the fact that leaking medical marijuana into the recreational population is a crime. In addition, he says, "there will be more than enough herb in Colorado than for the population of Colorado. It's gonna go somewhere."

And remember, possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is decriminalized in Massachusetts — as long as you do not possess that ounce in multiple bags.

Got a burning question? Email it to  valerie@valerievandepanne.comor tweet it to @asktheduchess.

Related: Politics of pain, Going to pot, Referendum explainer, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Medical Marijuana
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