Changes afoot for two New England medical marijuana programs

Hoping to increase patient access, health officials in Massachusetts have proposed allowing nurse practitioners to recommend medical marijuana to patients. And in neighboring New Hampshire, lawmakers are expected to take up a bill that would liberalize home growing rules for medical cannabis patients and potentially offer some competition to the state’s four dispensaries.

Massachusetts health officials scheduled public hearings on the matter Tuesday and Thursday, the Associated Press reported. Greater patient access could boost MMJ sales for the state’s dispensaries.

Though Massachusetts had 33,079 active medical marijuana patients through Nov. 30, only 173 physicians were certified to recommend medical marijuana.

A dearth of doctors registered to recommend medical marijuana also has slowed programs in other states such as New York, which last month passed measures to permit nurse practitioners to recommend medical marijuana.

In New Hampshire, State Rep. Renny Cushing has proposed legislation that would allow medical marijuana patients to grow their own cannabis if they live more than 30 miles from a dispensary or struggle to afford MMJ, Seacoastonline reported.

New Hampshire’s four dispensaries are spread throughout the state, where the mountainous landscape and long, snowy winters can make travel difficult.

Cushing’s plan, now in draft form, also would permit caregivers to grow cannabis for one patient.