Timeline for Implementation

Timeline for Implementation

Visit the medical marijuana section of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website by clicking here.

UPDATE AS OF DECEMBER 19, 2013

IMPORTANT NOTE: Implementation of the computer system that will allow doctors and patients to register online has been has not yet taken place. It is expected to be put in place in the future, most likely in the spring or summer of 2014. At that time, written recommendations will no longer be valid. Instead, patients and physicians will have to submit information through an online system in order for the state to issue a medical marijuana cards to patients.

At this time, the system of written recommendations remains in effect.

At this time, there is no system for patients of physicians to register with the state.

At this time, patients can associate with caregivers by mailing information into the Department of Public Health as described below.

At this time, there are no fees in place for patients or caregivers.

OVERVIEW

The medical marijuana law is now in effect, protecting patients with a valid doctor’s recommendation from prosecution for possession of medical marijuana.

BACKGROUND

The medical marijuana initiative went into effect on January 1, 2013. However, it is still not fully implemented. Dispensaries are scheduled to open in the spring or summer.

The state is also expected to set up a comprehensive computer system that will enable doctors to register patients, patients to register with the state, and dispensaries to track sales to patients in real time. This system is expected to be implemented sometime in the spring or summer of 2014.

In the meantime, patients with a doctor’s recommendation are protected from prosecution by state and local law enforcement for possession of medical marijuana.

Until dispensaries open, patients may cultivate a limited amount of medicine for their personal medical use, or appoint a caregiver to do so. That right will be rescinded when dispensaries open. At that time, patients who wish to cultivate their own medicine will have to apply for a Hardship Cultivation Registration to do so.

Read all the information below to ensure that you understand how implementation of the law is evolving and what that means for patients and caregivers.

UPDATE ON DISPENSARIES:

The state is still on track to register dispensaries to begin operation in early 2014. At that point, the state will issue between 14 and 35 registrations for dispensaries. Registered marijuana dispensaries (RMDs) may begin growing medical marijuana and any necessary renovation or construction at that point. This means that the dispensaries should have medicine available for patients sometime in the spring or early summer.

UPDATE ON PATIENT REGISTRATION

For now, the system of written recommendations as described below in the “Questions and Answers for Patients and Caregivers” is still in place. The state is not yet issuing medical marijuana ID cards. That means that a valid written recommendation from a doctor that complies with existing regulations is the legal document that protects patients from prosecution for possession of medical marijuana by state or local law enforcement.

There is currently no process for patients to register with the state. The state is expected to launch an on-line system for your doctor to register you sometime in the spring or summer of 2014. After the state implements the IT system that doctors and patients will use to register on line, written recommendations will no longer be valid.

CLICK HERE for step-by-step instructions on obtaining a doctor’s recommendation.

UPDATE ON CAREGIVER REGISTRATION

For now, the system as described below in “Questions and Answers for Patients and Caregivers” remains in effect: patients must mail information about their caregiver, along with a copy of their doctor’s recommendation to the Department of Public Health, and request a return mail receipt. The return mail receipt is the legal document that protects caregivers from prosecution by state or local law enforcement for possession of medical marijuana.

CLICK HERE for step-by-step instructions on appointing a caregiver.

UPDATE ON PATIENT/CAREGIVER CULTIVATION

For now, patients with a valid doctor’s recommendation may cultivate a limited amount of their own medicine, or appoint a caregiver to do so on their behalf.

When the dispensaries open, only patients issued a Hardship Cultivation Registration will be permitted to continue to cultivate their own medicine, or to appoint a caregiver to do so. Hardship Cultivation Registrations will be issued only to patients who meet certain requirements.

At that time, the state will set up an application process for patients to apply for Hardship Cultivation Registrations.

There is currently no process for patients to register with the state.

WHAT ABOUT FEES FOR PATIENTS AND CAREGIVERS?

Patients and caregivers will be subject to fees when the system is fully implemented. There is currently no system for patients or caregivers to send fees to the state.

UPDATE ON PHYSICIAN REGISTRATION

When the system is fully implemented physicians will be required to register with the state in order to continue providing medical marijuana recommendations. That is expected to take place sometime in the spring or summer of 2014. At this time, physicians do not have to register with the state.

The complete medical marijuana system is still in the process of being implemented, and so rules that patients must follow are evolving. The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance will post information as it becomes available.

Questions and Answers for Patients and Caregivers:

What does the medical marijuana law do?
The medical marijuana law eliminates state criminal and civil penalties for the medical use of marijuana by qualifying patients. To receive these protections, you must obtain a written certification, from a physician with whom you have a bona fide physician-patient relationship, stating that you patient have a specific debilitating medical condition and would likely obtain a net benefit from medical use of marijuana.

Over next several months, the state will set out a process that will require patients and their doctors to submit information to the Department of Public Health (DPH) so that patients can be issued a medical marijuana registration card. Watch this website closely to make sure you are aware of how to keep your status as a medical marijuana patient current as the system evolves.

For now, a written certification from your doctor provides you with protection from state criminal and civil penalties for the medical use of marijuana.

How do I become a medical marijuana patient under the new law?

To become a patient protected under the Massachusetts medical marijuana law, you will need to obtain a written recommendation from your doctor. You must be a resident of Massachusetts.

For now, a written certification from your doctor provides you with protections for the medical use of marijuana. Over the next several months, the state will set up a system that will require doctors and patients to submit information to the state. Patients will then receive a registration card that needs to be renewed every year. Watch this site to stay posted as the system evolves.

CLICK HERE for step-by-step instructions on obtaining a doctor’s recommendation.

How much medicine can I possess as medical marijuana patient?

Patients may possess a 60 day supply of medicine which is up to 10 ounces.

Can I grow my own medicine?

Only patients with permission from the state based on financial hardship or lack of a treatment center within a reasonable distance will be allowed to grow their own medicine when the law is fully implemented and dispensaries begin to open. At that time, the state will set up a process for patients who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are on Mass Health, or whose incomes are less than 300% the federal poverty level to apply for hardship cultivation privileges.

How do I obtain my medicine before the treatment centers open?

The law affords patients with a debilitating condition and a written doctor’s recommendation the right to grow a limited amount of their own medicine to ensure patients with legitimate need have an option for safe access while we wait for the dispensaries to open.

Can I appoint a caregiver to transport medicine for me or cultivate on my behalf?

Patients can appoint two caregivers. Caregivers may transport medical marijuana for patients. They may also cultivate medical marijuana on behalf of patients who have been granted hardship cultivation registrations, but only at one location.

Each caregiver can only be connected to one individual patient.

Until another system is put in place, patients with a debilitating condition and a written doctor’s recommendation can designate a caregiver by mailing specific information to the state.

Over the next several months, the state will set up a system that may require patients to designate their caregiver using a different system. Watch this site to stay posted as the system evolves.

CLICK HERE for step-by-step instructions on appointing a caregiver.

How many patients can each caregiver provide medicine for?

Regulations only allow caregivers to care for one patient. There is one exception to this rule: an immediate family member of more than one qualifying patient may be a caregiver for multiple patients who are also immediate family members.

“Immediate family member” means a spouse, parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling,
including in-laws.

A patient who is cultivating for his or herself may also cultivate for a second patient who has designated them as one of their personal caregivers.

Can caregivers be compensated for cultivating medicine for patients?

Regulations state, “A personal caregiver may not receive payment or other compensation for services rendered as a personal caregiver, other than compensation for reasonable expenses incurred in the provision of services as a caregiver provided however that a caregiver’s time is not considered a reasonable expense.”

How much medicine can be cultivated on behalf of a qualifying patient?

Qualifying patients or their caregivers may only cultivate enough medicine to maintain a 60 day supply of marijuana for the patient’s medical use. A 60 day supply is no more than 10 ounces of usable marijuana.

I have already received a written recommendation from a doctor. When the state finishes setting up a registration system for patients, will my recommendation still be valid?

Written recommendations received before the system is set up for patients to receive a registration card from the state remain valid until the state sets up the registration system. This is expected to happen sometime in the spring or summer of 2014.

Patients who now have written recommendations will have to submit information to the state before that date in order to maintain their status as qualifying medical marijuana patients. Watch this site to stay posted about when the system is set up so that you will know when the state begins accepting applications for medical marijuana registration cards.

I have a written recommendation from a doctor who is not licensed in Massachusetts. Is this valid?

Regulations require that doctors writing recommendations for medical marijuana are licensed in Massachusetts. Regulations also define what constitutes a bona fide physician-patient relationship.

Bona fide physician-patient relationship means a relationship between a certifying physician, acting in the usual course of his or her professional practice, and a patient in which the physician has conducted a clinical visit, completed and documented a full assessment of the patient’s medical history and current medical condition, has explained the potential benefits and risks of marijuana use, and has a role in the ongoing care and treatment of the patient.

If you received a written recommendation before regulations went into effect on May 24, 2013, and it was written by a doctor not licensed in Massachusetts, or was issued by a doctor with whom you DO NOT have a bona fide physician-patient relationship, the safest thing for you to do is to get a new recommendation that meets these requirements.

DISCLAIMER
This information is intended for educational purposes only. No reliance, expressed or implied, may be made on the information on this page or on any of its links. Any persons considering enrolling as a patient or caregiver in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should consult an attorney first. This web page and its related links do not advocate that anyone violate state or federal law. The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance is not responsible for any damages incurred as a result of your reliance on the educational information on this page.