Archive for the ‘massachusetts’ category

Cambridge, MA Voters Have Say on Making Marijuana Legal

October 24th, 2014

According to Wicked Local Cambridge, next month, Massachusetts’s voters in eight districts — including Precincts 1 and 3 — will get the opportunity to relay to state representatives their opinions on making marijuana legal.

The Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts (DPFMA), a nonprofit organization that supports new approaches to drug control policy, gathered enough signatures to include the following public policy question on the November ballot: “Should state representatives be instructed to support a measure to regulate marijuana similar to alcohol?”

The public policy question will be included on ballots in 56 cities and towns across Massachusetts. In addition, according to DPFMA, one in every 20 resident voters will be given the chance to express their views on the issue.

David Rogers

Cambridge is one of the districts that will get a say on the matter. In fact, the state representative who represents the 24th Middlesex District, David Rogers, said that he plans on voting in favor of the ballot question.

“Although obviously localities cannot legalize marijuana, we do have the ability to influence public discussion and debate, and ultimately public opinion,” Rogers told the Chronicle. “For far too long, the drug laws in the commonwealth and throughout the country have done more than good. It’s time to think creatively about new approaches. I favor legalization coupled with strong regulation.”

Moreover, there is overwhelming public support. Massachusetts’s voters have already approved 69 marijuana public policy questions throughout the state. During elections in 2000 and 2010, ballot questions pertaining to taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol appeared in seven districts and garnered 69 percent support, according to DPFMA.

Massachusetts voters, please continue to support sensible marijuana policy by expressing your views to your state representatives on Election Day. Please encourage family, friends, and neighbors to do the same!

MPP Files Committee in California to Support 2016 Initiative to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana

September 24th, 2014

The Marijuana Policy Project filed a committee with the California Secretary of State’s Office today to support a 2016 statewide ballot initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use.

The new committee, the Marijuana Policy Project of California, will start raising funds immediately to help place a measure on the ballot.

According to a statement from MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia:

Rob Kampia

“A diverse coalition of activists, organizations, businesses, and community leaders will be joining together in coming months to draft the most effective and viable proposal possible. Public opinion has been evolving nationwide when it comes to marijuana policy, and Californians have always been ahead of the curve.”

The announcement has generated quite a bit of media interest, which began with a mention in a Washington Post story summarizing the statewide efforts currently underway to end marijuana prohibition.

It noted MPP has filed committees in Arizona, Massachusetts, and Nevada for 2016, and it plans to focus on making marijuana legal through state legislatures in Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont over the next few years.

The Smell of Marijuana is No Longer Justification for Searches in Massachusetts

July 11th, 2014

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled Wednesday that police officers cannot search vehicles based solely upon the smell of unburnt marijuana, Boston.com reports. The court had previously decided that warrantless searches of pedestrians or cars for the smell of burned marijuana were illegal in 2011. They believed that allowing unwarranted searches based on the smell of marijuana would be inconsistent with the 2008 law that decriminalized marijuana in Massachusetts. The ruling on Wednesday was based on the fact that the human nose cannot discern the presence of a criminal amount of marijuana as opposed to a non-criminal amount. Possession of less than an ounce is not a crime in Massachusetts and, as the police cannot reliably distinguish criminal amounts of marijuana by smell, searches would not be legal. The justices wrote, “We are not confident, at least on this record, that a human nose can discern reliably the presence of a criminal amount of marijuana, as distinct from an amount subject only to a civil fine.”

The court said this decision was consistent with the will of the people who want the police to focus on more serious crimes. The court rejected the argument from law enforcement that they can search vehicles based on the smell of marijuana because possession of marijuana is still a criminal offense under federal law. Justice Barbara Lenk said, “The fact that such conduct is technically subject to a Federal prohibition does not provide an independent justification for a warrantless search.”

Massachusetts Regulators Approve 11 Dispensary Applications

June 30th, 2014

The rollout of Massachusetts’ medical marijuana program has been proceeding more slowly than anticipated, but a major milestone was reached last week with the approval of 11 dispensary applications. The Department of Public Health granted eleven provisional certificates on Friday, and it’s possible that some of the approved dispensaries will be ready to serve patients before the end of this year.

The department had previously given preliminary approval to 20 applicants, but, after further review of the applications, nine were rejected. Massachusetts’ law authorizes up to 35 dispensaries, so these rejected applicants and others will be allowed to reapply in 2015.

Additionally, it’s disappointing that the state has not yet made it possible for patients to apply for ID cards. However, with dispensaries planning to open in only a matter of months, it seems likely that the ID card issue will soon be resolved.

 

MPP Planning to Put Marijuana on the Ballot in Massachusetts in 2016

June 11th, 2014

On Tuesday, MPP and allied advocates launched a ballot referendum committee to make marijuana legal, taxed, and regulated for adults in Massachusetts. The committee is called the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts and will allow MPP to begin raising money within Massachusetts. Massachusetts voters have shown a desire to reform their marijuana laws, first by decriminalizing simple possession in 2008, and then by approving a medical marijuana ballot initiative in 2012. In addition, a recent poll taken by WBUR/MassINC Polling Group found that 49% of Massachusetts voters support making marijuana legal.

MPP’s Mason Tvert weighed in on the future of MPP’s involvement in Massachusetts in Commonwealth Magazine, stating, “We’re going to be spending the next year working to build a coalition. We really want to replicate the Colorado process, and not just the winning part. We spent six months drafting the best possible initiative, and the most effective system we felt was possible. That’s our goal in Massachusetts: to get a large group of stakeholders, and write the best possible law. If the legislature wants to participate in drafting the law, they’ll have the opportunity. And if not, and if we believe it’s something the voters want, we have no choice but to take it to the ballot.”

Marijuana ‘Caregivers’ Getting Little Oversight

May 11th, 2014

The young woman pulled her Subaru wagon into the parking lot of a Framingham hotel Wednesday night for a prearranged meeting with someone she knew only as Kool Guy, a man with short black hair and glasses who resembled actor Joaquin Phoenix.

She handed him $250 cash for an ounce of marijuana dubbed Blue Cheese. He threw in four free samples — chocolate and caramel candies laced with THC, the ingredient responsible for the drug’s high.

“The first time we met, I was nervous,” said the 31-year-old woman named Janeen, who found Kool Guy through a website that matches medical marijuana patients nationwide with “caregivers” in their area who supply cannabis that they have grown or bought from others. Now, making her fourth purchase to help with severe migraines, Janeen felt comfortable enough to bring along the 97-year-old woman she cares for.

Kool Guy is part of a booming cottage industry of self-described caregivers who have jumped in to meet the demand created by the state’s year-and-a-half-old medical marijuana law. While Massachusetts health officials have been preoccupied with vetting and licensing storefront dispensaries, these entrepreneurs are hawking products with names such as Jack the Ripper and Sour Diesel on the Internet. They operate in a legal gray area, with no regulation or oversight.

Bill Downing, a longtime activist for legalizing marijuana who is from Reading, said his company, Yankee Care Givers, delivers medicinal cannabis products grown by “old hippies” to about 940 patients throughout Massachusetts who order from the company’s website. His prices range from $320 an ounce for strains of marijuana called Green Crack, Sweet Tooth, and Blueberry Cannabis Flowers to $7 for another, edible variety, Green Karma Happy Taffy Lollies.

The caregivers and patients such as Janeen, who asked to be identified by only her first name, said that they’ are following the law and state health regulations. The rules allow patients with doctor-provided certificates to grow marijuana or have a caregiver cultivate it or obtain it for them — up to 10 ounces for a 60-day supply. Caregivers are limited to supplying just one patient at a time, but caregivers, patients, and even some police officials say the rules are unclear and open to interpretation.

The state Department of Public Health issued guidelines for law enforcement in March, but Reading Police Chief James Cormier said they leave many questions unanswered.

“We are in a big state of confusion right now,” he said. “What we need is a clear definition of what is a caregiver.”

The state health agency is aware of the flourishing trade, but has apparently done nothing to stop it. Karen van Unen, director of the department’s medical marijuana program, declined to be interviewed, and did not answer questions submitted through a spokesman about whether the proliferation of online caregivers serving multiple customers violates state regulations.

Van Unen released a statement, saying: “The Department actively cooperates with law enforcement when there are concerns about violations of these regulations, and is developing an online system which will provide law enforcement with real-time access to patient and caregiver registration, and will improve officials’ ability to monitor compliance.”

Since voters legalized medical marijuana in November 2012, the state has granted preliminary approval for 20 dispensaries, but has delayed licensing them amid revelations that some of the companies made misrepresentations on their applications that the state failed to uncover before selecting them.

Many patients have meanwhile received certificates from physicians allowing them to obtain marijuana for an array of conditions. But with dispensaries not expected to open until the fall at the earliest, they have turned to the Internet, where sites such as marijuana-caregiver.com provide a list of eager suppliers.

Patients and caregivers find each other through forums on the website and then arrange purchases through e-mail, private messaging, texting, and phone calls. The site includes patients’ ratings of caregivers, and frequent posts about upcoming deliveries around Massachusetts.

“We are caregivers and patients on Cape Cod looking to help other patients in need,” read one post.

Another person wrote, “Are there any caregivers that would be willing to grow for my wife? Not sure if this is even possible with these ridiculous MA laws.”

Caregivers registered on the site say patients must provide a copy of their doctor’s certificate and identification before they will sell them marijuana. Some refer to their prices as a “donation,” in an apparent effort to comply with state regulations that prohibit caregivers from making a profit on marijuana.

Many of the caregivers have their own doctors’ certificate that allows them to legally carry up to 10 ounces of marijuana in Massachusetts.

“I don’t think I’m breaking the law,” said Kool Guy, who spoke on the condition he not be named for fear of legal problems and because he wants to maintain his privacy.

“You have to fill the void with something and that’s what we’re doing right now. When the dispensaries open up, we are going to dwindle away.”

Kool Guy said he grows a small amount of marijuana and has to buy from other caregivers to meet the demand of about 20 patients. He said he delivers to department store parking lots and million-dollar houses in Boston’s most affluent suburbs, depending on what the patient prefers.

“I feel bad for these people,” said Kool Guy, who described his patients as mostly middle-aged and suffering from various ailments, including cancer, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain, and anxiety.

Another caregiver who posts on the website said he is part of a cooperative composed of a small group of military veterans who grow marijuana for their medical needs and deliver any surplus to other patients.

“We started out as patients and it wasn’t available, or what was available was steeply overpriced or black market,” he said, adding that he works a full-time construction job and only takes “donations” from other patients to offset the cost of cultivation.

“You are not doing it for profit, you are doing it to help people,” he said.

Tom Brandes of Phoenix, the administrator of marijuana-caregiver.com, said he launched the site a couple of years ago when medical cannabis became legal in Arizona, then expanded to other states.

Brandes said he doesn’t charge patients or caregivers to register and post messages. The site does not conduct background checks and it is up to patients and caregivers to vet each other and follow the law, he said.

“I’m not going to try to police it; I can’t,” said Brandes, adding that he can’t keep drug dealers from trying to infiltrate the site, but enlists moderators to monitor activity.

Downing, 55, the owner of Yankee Care Givers, said during a telephone interview that he is different from other caregivers on the Internet.

“I’m the only actual caregiver,” he said. “Those guys are drug dealers.”

Downing said the Department of Public Health is aware of his business because he sends it a form signed by each of his patients, designating him as their caregiver. He said it is unclear what the department does with the forms since the state has yet to create the planned registration system for patients and caregivers.

Downing said the one-patient limit per caregiver does not apply to him because state regulations say personal care attendants are exempt from that rule and his business is defined as a personal services company. (Several other caregivers said in interviews they should not be limited to one patient because people shop around and do not stick with one caregiver.)

Downing, the father of two teenaged boys, said his company is nonprofit and he was growing marijuana at his home until police warned him last month that they suspected he was going to be robbed and that he was endangering his family. He said police told him they believed his business was illegal, but did not arrest him.

Cormier, the Reading chief, said he thinks Downing is breaking the law and has repeatedly asked the Department of Public Health over the last two months for a written opinion on whether he is.

“I am frustrated with the DPH,” Cormier said. “I believe that there’s a potential loophole in terms of the so-called caregiver exception that is being exploited. The frustration comes because we need DPH to give us an opinion in writing and we have not received it.”

Cormier said his department received numerous complaints from neighbors about Downing’s brisk business and he remains under investigation.

Downing said he has relocated his business to an undisclosed site and is buying marijuana from “black market growers who have been in business for decades, servicing the market with high, organic quality marijuana . . . just old hippies.”

Not everybody finds caregivers online. Scott Murphy, a 31-year-old Iraq veteran and father of three young children, said he started using marijuana about two years ago to ease the pain of his degenerative arthritis. Murphy buys tincture, a marijuana-infused oil, from a caregiver he met at a gathering of marijuana advocates.

The caregiver process is far better than buying it off the street, he said, because it’s cheaper and his caregiver sells only products that have been lab-tested.

“My caregiver switched to a delivery service that can meet you wherever it’s convenient for you, whether it be your house or another location,” said Murphy, a Newton resident who is completing his undergraduate degree, applying to law school, and running a nonprofit that promotes veterans’ health issues.

Matthew Allen, executive director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, said he gets calls daily from patients who are seeking a medical marijuana caregiver, but his organization is unable to help them because it does not have a system to ensure the services that are springing up are reliable and comply with state law.

The alliance is lobbying to change the state regulation restricting caregivers to one patient, and wants to adopt the rules in Rhode Island and Maine, which allow five patients per caregiver.

“We do want caregivers to offer this service, staying within the boundaries of the law,” Allen said. “But this regulation makes it impossible to do that even for those with the best intentions.”

Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Author: Shelley Murphy and Kay Lazar, Globe Staff
Published: May 10, 2014
Copyright: 2014 Globe Newspaper Company
Contact: letter@globe.com
Website: http://www.boston.com/globe/

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Massachusetts Approves First Dispensaries

February 5th, 2014

Massachusetts’ medical marijuana law was implemented over a year ago, and now the state has granted its first 20 dispensary licenses. The Department of Public HeathMA public health received 100 applications and judged them based on proposed location and the ability of the dispensary to ensure public safety while simultaneously meeting the needs of its patients.

The law allows for 35 dispensary licenses; however, only 20 have been granted so far. More competition will mean lower prices for patients, so, the sooner the last 15 licenses are granted, the better.

Massachusetts: Majority of Likely Voters Favor Legalizing Cannabis

February 4th, 2014

A majority of likely Massachusetts voters support legalizing marijuana, according to a Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll released today.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said that they “favor … the legalization of marijuana.” Thirty-seven percent of respondents opposed legalization. Ten percent were undecided.

In previous elections, Massachusetts voters have overwhelmingly approved statewide ballot measures decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses and legalizing the dispensing of the plant for therapeutic purposes.

Local activists have already begun plans for a possible 2016 ballot initiative drive on the question of full legalization.

The Suffolk poll possesses a margin or error of +/- 4 percent.

Over the past few months, separate statewide polls in Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Texas have all shown majority support for legalizing the adult consumption of cannabis.

Recent national polls by Gallup (58 percent), CNN (55 percent), CBS (51 percent), and NBC (55 percent) have also shown majority support for legalizing cannabis.

Massachusetts Gearing Up For 2016 Legalization Campaign

January 14th, 2014

Building on steadily increasing public support, a coalition of marijuana policy reformers are looking to 2016 to get an initiative on the MassachusettsMA seal ballot to make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol.

MPP was largely responsible for the successful 2008 campaign to remove the threat of arrest for possession of small amounts of marijuana in the state. Now, national and local advocates are preparing to end marijuana prohibition in the Bay State:

Outside groups are already pledging support – strategic and financial – to push for legalization in Massachusetts.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a national nonprofit that says it spent about $2 million on the successful 2012 campaign for legalization in Colorado, also plans to spend money in this state.

“We intend to support an initiative in Massachusetts in 2016 that would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol,” said spokesman Mason Tvert.

Bill Downing, treasurer of Bay State Repeal, a group created to get the legalization question on the ballot, said he expects other national groups to back the effort here.

NORML Argues State Prosecutors Can’t Justify Police Searches Based on Smell

November 25th, 2013

NORML filed an “amicus curiae” brief with the state supreme appellate court on Friday, November 22, urging the court to enforce the limits on police searches set by 2008′s voter-initiative state decriminalization law, which eliminating police searches and arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Attorneys Michael Cutler of Northampton and Steven Epstein of Georgetown authored the brief.norml_remember_prohibition_

In this case a Boston judge initially ruled a 2011 police search — based entirely on the smell of unburnt marijuana — violated the “decriminalization” law which made possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction subject only to a fine, thereby ending police authority to search or arrest the possessor. The state appealed.

Earlier in 2011 the state supreme court ruled, in a case in which NORML also filed an amicus brief, that police searches based only on the odor of burnt marijuana were now illegal. The court reasoned that smell alone did not establish probable cause to believe a criminal amount (more than an ounce) was present, so police had no power to search or arrest.

NORML asks the court to reject the Boston prosecutor’s claim that federal prohibition — which allows arrest and imprisonment for any amount of cannabis under federal law — trumps the state decriminalization law and allows police to ignore state law and use evidence from smell-based searches in state courts.

NORML argues that state prosecutors and police must obey state law and state appellate court rulings under the state constitution’s separation of powers doctrine, requiring the executive branch to obey the legislative branch’s laws and the judicial branch’s limits on police conduct under state law and the state’s constitution.

Finally, NORML argues that the state prosecutor’s position violates fundamental principles of Federalism, which limit federal “preemption” of state law only where state law “positively conflicts” with federal law. Since the August 2013 federal Justice Department Guidance memo to  federal prosecutors nationwide, recommending no interference with state laws legalizing marijuana in a responsible manner, no such conflict exists between federal and state authority.

Oral argument in the case of Commonwealth v. Craan is scheduled for early February, with a decision possible by June 2014.