Massachusetts Lawmakers Try to Circumvent Will of Voters by Gutting Question 3
BOSTON, MA — Hearings on a bill that would eliminate the medical marijuana program approved by Massachusetts voters in November will be held Monday, May 6 at the State House.
Over 63 percent of voters approved Question 3 in November 2012, making Massachusetts the 18th state to allow medical marijuana. Since then, the Department of Public Health has been soliciting input from Bay State residents in the interest of crafting regulations for the initiative approved by voters, and are expected to release the final regulations in late May.
Now, state lawmakers will be holding public hearings on several proposals that would essentially re-write the ballot initiative enacted by the voters while gutting the yet-to-launch medical marijuana program in the process.
On Monday, May 6 at 10 AM in hearing room A-2 at the State House, the Joint Committee on Public Health will be holding a hearing on Senate Bill 1031 and several other proposals that would prevent patients from safely accessing their medicine.
Most notably, legislation filed by state Senator John F. Keenan (D-Quincy), a longtime opponent of common sense marijuana policies in the Commonwealth, would restrict the qualifying conditions for the medical marijuana program, as well as significantly reduce patient’s access to medical marijuana in Massachusetts.
Senate Bill 1031 would reduce the number of dispensaries allowed in the state from a voter-approved 35, including a minimum of 1 and maximum of 5 per county, to only 10 dispensaries allowed state-wide. The proposal would also limit medical marijuana patients to a supply of two ounces per month, down from the 60-day supply of ten ounces recommended by the Department of Public Health.
Most notably, Senate Bill 1031 limits the list of qualifying conditions to cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. This restrictive list does not include chronic pain, ulcerative colitis, paralysis, PTSD and many other conditions that patients can find relief from medical marijuana.
“After four months of soliciting input from all stakeholders in the state, the Department of Public Health has almost finished with writing regulations for the initiative approved by the voters,” said the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance in a statement. “Let’s let the state move forward with implementing the safest and most secure medical marijuana law in the country rather than starting all over again from scratch.”
Hearings will also be held on House Bill 2039, sponsored by Rep. James Murphy (D-Weymouth) which would establish zoning standards for the siting of medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts, preventing them from being located within a 1000-foot radius of a school, place of worship, civic center, drug free zone or non smoking zones as set by a municipality or the state.
Medical marijuana advocates say that this would prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from opening anywhere in the state, due to Massachusetts’ workplace smoking ban.
The Joint Committee on Public Health is co-chaired by Sen. Keenan and Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez (D-Jamaica Plain), both longtime opponents of medical marijuana in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts residents are urged to contact their elected officials and encourage them to oppose Senate Bill 1031.