Massachusetts Marijuana Advocates Decry ‘Nasty’ Bill That Would Severely Limit State’s MMJ Program

Massachusetts lawmakers are set to begin debating a bill that would cap the number of dispensaries in the state to just 10, set a nonrefundable application fee of at least $25,000 for cultivation licenses and enact strict regulations on the fledgling medical cannabis industry.

The Joint Committee on Public Health has scheduled a hearing on the measure – Bill S. 1031 – at 10 am on May 6. State Sen. John F. Keenan (D-Quincy) spearheaded the bill and now has 11 cosponsors. (You can read the measure in its entirety here.)

Medical marijuana advocates have come out strongly against the bill, which would severely limit the size and scope of the local medical cannabis industry and significantly dampen MMJ business opportunities in the state. One group called the bill a “nasty” measure, saying it defies the will of the voters and would greatly restrict patient access to the drug. Other MMJ advocates fear it could create chaos that will lead to delays – and ultimately result in another ballot measure on medical marijuana.

“Essentially, this would supersede what the voters passed,” said Robert Hunt, who owns cultivation supply stores in several states and is also an MMJ consultant. “It’s a  big problem that’s been looming for a while. Keenan is trying to significantly curtail what residents already voted for.”

The bill also would unravel all the work the state’s health department has done so far in coming up with its own set of rules and regulations on the industry. The department unveiled its initial proposals several weeks ago and is scheduled to release its final recommendations today, though that could be pushed back until next week.

While the health department’s rules are expected to be onerous, MMJ advocates say Bill S. 1031 would be much more restrictive.

The bill would:

– Limit the number of dispensaries to between three and 10 statewide.

– Limit the number of cultivation sites to between three and 10 statewide.

– Require a nonrefundable application fee of at least $25,000 for those seeking cultivation licenses.

– Cap the salaries of dispensary and cultivation site executives, employees and board members.

– Prevent doctors from individually determining which medical conditions qualify for marijuana recommendations, limiting the list to the eight illnesses stipulated in the existing law.

– Limit possession to 2 ounces per patient.

The caps on executive salaries are particularly worrisome, as they could deter many well-qualified entrepreneurs from getting involved given the high risks and relatively low rewards. Additionally, the proposed limit on the number of dispensaries and cultivation centers would lead to a much smaller market than anticipated. The voter-approved law calls for up to 35 dispensaries statewide.

It’s unclear how much support the bill has among lawmakers. Some MMJ advocates say it’s highly unlikely that it will pass given the immense amount of time the state’s health department has already spent on regulations.

But Tim Keogh, who is working with a group planning to submit a dispensary application in Bristol County, said he thinks a favorable vote in the committee is likely. He is urging residents to contact their local lawmakers (here’s a sample letter Keogh created for doing so) and express their opposition to the bill.

4 comments on “Massachusetts Marijuana Advocates Decry ‘Nasty’ Bill That Would Severely Limit State’s MMJ Program
  1. Kevin Jones on

    In reality, many legalization activists see promise in this situation. The more the politicians fight for control over the medical law, the more they raise angst in support of another voter ballot initiative to outright legalize.

    There are already plans to do so by 2016 in MA, and many other states are changing course to this line of thought. If patients are the primary concern then legalization is the only way to assure their safety and broadest access.

    Politicians only know how to think in control mode. What can they control? What should the control?

    The people can and should control them, and they will find this out willfully or not so much.
    Legalization is coming. And it speeds up the precess every time a dispensary gets raided or politicians try to grab control back.

    Reply
  2. Tudo on

    When will State Sen. John F. Keenan start having peoples wheelchairs taken away from them? This is the kind of lowlife we teach our children to call the cops on if approached by and he’s a senator? Is he from Florida?

    Reply
  3. Rick DiMatteo on

    JOHN F. KEENAN? Where did this joker come from?
    I guess everyone needs a cause! KENNAN should pick a cause like implementing the will of the people.
    I wonder what his position on “thoughts of suicide and death” as side effects are? Oh, wait a minute there would be no polical gain in fighting Pfizer.
    And this political joker is looking out for whose best interest??
    Rick DiMatteo
    Advocate for banning shallow , self serving politcians

    Reply
  4. JWM on

    Once again, lawmakers are not doing what the people have already voted on and agreed with. This seems to be a common theme. The majority has voted and passed this issue and yet, the politicians refuse to do what the people have asked for – again!

    Reply

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