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Massachusetts Approves Medical Marijuana


On November 6, Massachusetts voters decided that medical marijuana should be legal in their state. As of January 1, 2013, "qualifying patients" will no longer be subject to "state criminal and civil penalties for the medical use of marijuana…" Patients must have "a written certification, from a physician with whom the patient has a bona fide physician-patient relationship…" in order to legally possess up to a 60-day supply of marijuana.

Pursuant to Question 3, a qualifying patient must be diagnosed with "a debilitating medical condition" including, but not limited to:

  • Cancer;
  • Glaucoma;
  • HIV-positive status or AIDS;
  • Hepatitis C;
  • Crohn's Disease;
  • Parkinson's Disease;
  • ALS; or
  • Multiple Sclerosis.

Patients or their caregivers will also have the right "to grow only enough plants, in a closed, locked facility, for a 60-day supply of marijuana for the patient's own use." Caregivers may help patients obtain, grow and use the marijuana, but may not consume it themselves. Anyone wishing to cultivate marijuana must obtain a "cultivation registration" from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH).

Non-profit medical marijuana treatment centers will also be allowed to "grow, process and provide marijuana to patients or their caregivers." These centers and their personnel must be registered with the DPH. Pursuant to Question 3, there must be at least one but no more than five treatment centers in each county, and 35 treatment centers in the state in 2013. This may change in future years.

Caregivers and treatment center personnel must be at least twenty-one years of age and "have no felony drug convictions."

Question 3 makes it clear that the new law does:

  1. Not give immunity under federal law or obstruct federal enforcement of federal law;
  2. Not supersede Massachusetts laws prohibiting possession, cultivation, or sale of marijuana for nonmedical purposes;
  3. Not allow the operation of a motor vehicle, boat, or aircraft while under the influence of marijuana;
  4. Not require any health insurer or government entity to reimburse for the costs of the medical use of marijuana;
  5. Not require any health care professional to authorize the medical use of marijuana;
  6. Not require any accommodation of the medical use of marijuana in any workplace, school bus or grounds, youth center, or correctional facility;
  7. Not require any accommodation of smoking marijuana in any public place.

Massachusetts communities must now determine where medical marijuana distribution and treatment centers may be located. As Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes has noted, "It's kind of a complicated issue." State and local law enforcement agencies must decide how to handle a law that stands in opposition to federal law. Nonetheless, Boston Representative Jeffrey Sánchez (D) has assured that "regulators will begin grappling with medical marijuana now." (The Boston Globe)

Massachusetts now joins a growing number of other states that have legalized the use of marijuana for medical reasons: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

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Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.