Testimony of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition
Submitted to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary
186th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
July 14, 2009

RE:  S 1739, “An Act relative to the arrest and prosecution for the possession of marihuana for medical purposes”

A frequent recurrence to the fundamental principles of the constitution, and a constant adherence to those of piety, justice, moderation, temperance, industry, and frugality, are absolutely necessary to preserve the advantages of liberty, and to maintain a free government. The people ought, consequently, to have a particular attention to all those principles, in the choice of their officers and representatives: and they have a right to require of their lawgivers and magistrates, an exact and constant observance of them, in the formation and execution of the laws necessary for the good administration of the commonwealth.

Article XVIII, A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Chairpersons Creem and O’Flaherty, honorable members of the committee:

Massachusetts adopted a medicinal marijuana law in 1992.  Then Governor, William Weld signed it into law.  Unfortunately, that law requires the Department of Public Health to supply the medicine to approved patients, and the department has been unable to obtain such a supply.  Since that time, thirteen other states, nine by initiatives for laws, have adopted laws that effectively permit qualifying patients access to marijuana.  This committee and the Joint Committee on Public Health have heard testimony on amendments to effectuate the 1992 law every session since then.

It is now time for the legislature to act by passing S 1739, “An Act relative to the arrest and prosecution for the possession of marihuana for medical purposes” or surely as the sun rose this morning, an initiative petition will be filed either by August 5, 2009, or you will have a reprieve while residents suffer, until August 2011, unless you do your duty.

As the attached election results from 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008 demonstrate your constituents who vote favor legislation like S. 1739.

This committee and all other members of the General Court must now recognize it is the will of the people that the Commonwealth not punish persons who use cannabis as a medicine under the supervision of health care professionals and the persons who grow it for them.

By enacting the legislation before you relieve the stress medical users suffer as they live in fear of prosecution.

By enacting the legislation before you, you help secure the Commonwealth’s reputation as a world leader in medical research, treatment and education.  The cannabinols are a category of drugs that rival the opiates in terms of their range of application.  There is one notable difference: a lethal overdose of cannabinols is scientifically impossible.  Physicians who want to gain experience treating people with cannabinols, the medical school student who wants to learn from them and patients who will seek treatment of their various maladies with cannabinols, will go to California, Canada, or some other locale where medical experimentation and treatment with cannabis-derived drugs is not countered with the threat of arrest and imprisonment.

By enacting the legislation before you, you secure the fair treatment of current and prospective employees of Massachusetts businesses, who happen to live in Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island and other states where the medicinal use of marijuana is legal.  Drug screenings are used by many employers, and those patients from states where there medicine is legal may be denied the opportunity to become taxpaying Massachusetts workers.

By enacting the legislation before you, you will not suffer the loss of any votes.  The polling data indicates legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis is more popular than most incumbents in Massachusetts.

Attached for your consideration, in addition to the election results you will find the Report of the Rhode Island Department of Public Health to that state’s House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare and Senate Committee on the Judiciary, dated January 14, 2009, on the success of the “Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Program.”  The RI program was amended this past month, over the veto of the Governor, to license and regulate the distribution of medical marijuana to authorized patients.

In May, the US Supreme Court let stand a unanimous 2008 Fourth District CA Court of Appeals ruling that determined that state laws allowing for the medical use of cannabis by qualified patients “do not create a ‘positive conflict’ [with federal law.]”  By declining to hear the appeal the Court makes it clear that the United States Constitution permits states to enact and implement independent medical marijuana policies.

Last May the Joint Committee on Public Health heard testimony on H 2160, a proposed law similar to the one before this Committee.  The testimony before that committee was videotaped and is available for viewing at:

http://tinyurl.com/pmttmp

http://tinyurl.com/pzowba

http://tinyurl.com/pyhdn9

http://tinyurl.com/qslhhb

http://tinyurl.com/o5oelc

In the institutional memory of this committee since the 182nd session of the General Court are materials submitted by our organization and others supporting making cannabis available as a medicine, the only policy that fulfills the ideals of the people of Massachusetts when they adopted the Great Charter of 1780 wherein it is proclaimed:

The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body politic, to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it with the power of enjoying in safety and tranquillity their natural rights, and the blessings of life:  . . . . among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness . . . . .

Respectfully submitted,
The officers and directors of the
Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition
by its Clerk and Treasurer
Steven S. Epstein

 

Return of Votes For Massachusetts State Election November 4, 2008

Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow seriously ill patients, with their doctor’s written recommendation, to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for their personal medical use?
Districts voting on this question:

Yes No Blank
First Middlesex      15,677      5,423      1,693
Twenty-First Middlesex 14,154       5,915 2,289
Thirteenth Norfolk 16,372       6,125 1,880
Sixth Plymouth 15,267 6,155 1,853
Total all districts 61,470 23,618 7,715

Return of Votes For Massachusetts State Election November 7, 2006

 

Shall the {senator/representative} from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow seriously ill patients, with their doctor’s written recommendation, to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for their personal medical use?
Districts voting on this question:

 

 

Yes No Blank
Third Middlesex Senate      37,432      18,505      8,036
Seventh Norfolk Rep      8,389      4,820 3,133
Total all districts      45,821      23,325 11,169

Return of Votes For Massachusetts State Election November 2, 2004

 

Shall the {senator/representative} from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow seriously ill patients, with their doctor’s written recommendation, to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for their personal medical use?
Districts voting on this question:

Yes No Blank
Worcester & Norfolk Senate      48,739      22,611      6,742
Third Berkshire Rep.  10,909 4,173 2,418
Twenty-Fourth Middlesex Rep.  14,551 4,705 1,911
Sixth Norfolk Rep 10,791 4,506 4,562
Seventh Plymouth Rep 13,784 5,902 1,542
Total votes all districts 98,774 41,897 17,175

Return of Votes For Massachusetts State Election November 2, 2002

Shall the {senator/representative} from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow seriously ill patients, with their doctor’s written recommendation, to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for their personal medical use?
District voting on this question:

Yes No Blank
Fourteenth Worcester Rep.         6,717      4,197      1,566

Return of Votes For Massachusetts State Election November 7, 2000

Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow patients with certain diseases, who have a written doctor’s recommendation, to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for their personal use, until such time as the federal government puts into place an effective distribution system for these patients?
District voting on this question:

Yes No Blank
Fourth Barnstable Rep.         14,315      8,804      3,892

 

 

 

 

 

Rhode Island Department of Health

 

 

Three Capitol Hill
Providence, RI 02908-5094
www.health.ri.gov

 

DATE: January 14, 2009

 

TO: Representative Joseph M. McNamara, Chairperson
      House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare

      Senator Michael J. McCaffrey, Chairperson
      Senate Committee on the Judiciary

FROM: Charles Alexandre
Chief, Health Professions Regulation

SUBJECT: Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Program

The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act was enacted on January 3, 2006. This report is submitted pursuant to section 21-28.6-6(k) of the Act.

The Department of Health implemented the Medical Marijuana Program on April 3, 2006. The first registration cards were issued to qualified patients and their designated caregivers on or about May 1, 2006. As of December 30, 2008 five hundred sixty one (561) qualified patients are registered with the program. An additional four hundred fifty eight (458) designated caregivers are currently registered. To date the Department has revoked one (1) patient registration upon this individual’s arrest and arraignment on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, narcotics and weapons charges and one (1) caregiver for possession of marijuana in an a amount greater that allowed.

The Department charges a registration fee for qualified patients of $75 at the time of application. Patients who submit satisfactory evidence to the Department of being a recipient of Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pay a $10 registration fee.

Pursuant to Public Law 2007, Chapters 72 and 495, the following revisions were made to the program:

 

Medical Marijuana Program

Page 2

  • A registration fee for caregivers was implemented wherein applicants are charged a registration fee of $75 for each caregiver unless they submit evidence of being a recipient of Medicaid, SSI or SSDI and are charged a fee of $10;
  • The amount of useable marijuana and marijuana plants was reduced for caregivers with multiple patients;
  • Patient and caregiver name and address was removed from the registration cards; and
  • The registration period was extended from one to two years.

The following table depicts the number of registered patients and caregivers as of December 30, 2008.

 

Active Pending Revoked
Minor
Patient
Non-

Medicaid/SSI

1 0 0
Patient
Total
1 0 0
Adult
Patient
Medicaid/SSI 294 9 1
Non-

Medicaid/SSI

266 12 1
Total 561 19 2
Caregiver 458 19 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Section 21-28.6-6(d) allows a patient to designate two (2) caregivers to assist with the patient’s medical use of marijuana. The caregiver may not have a felony drug conviction. Section 21-28.6-3(6) allows a caregiver to assist a maximum of five patients.

 

 

 

ACTIVE MMP PATIENTS
Patients with 0 caregivers       92
Patients with 1 caregiver 165
Patients with 2 caregivers 304
ACTIVE CAREGIVERS
Caregivers with 1 patient 335
Caregivers with 2 patients 45
Caregivers with 3 patients 4
Caregivers with 4 patients 1
Caregivers with 5 patients 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medical Marijuana Program
Page 3

 

Two hundred twenty nine (229) Rhode Island licensed physicians have certified patients for the program. A breakdown of qualifying diagnosis, comparing 2006 with 2008, is depicted in the following table. Note that some patients may have more than one diagnosis.

 

Diagnosis Count Percent
2006 2008 2006 2008
Cancer or Treatment 29 85 11.55% 11.95%
Glaucoma or Treatment 6 12 2.39% 1.69%
Positive Status for HIV or
Treatment
28 60 11.16%  8.44%
AIDS or Treatment 14 32 5.58% 4.50%
Hepatitis C or Treatment 31 69 12.35% 9.70%
Chronic or Debilitating

Disease or Condition

143 453 56.97% 63.71%
Total      209    618

 

 

 

“Chronic or debilitating disease or conditions” include cachexia or “wasting” syndrome, severe, debilitating, chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, including, but not limited to, those characteristic of epilepsy, severe persistent muscle spasms, including, but not limited to, those characteristic of multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s disease, or agitation of Alzheimer’s disease

Since the program’s implementation the Department has had several requests for information with respect to the use of marijuana by nursing home residents. Specifically the facility requested information regarding provisions to obtain marijuana for the resident’s use. The statute does not address the use of marijuana in inpatient facilities.

Pursuant to section 21-28.6-6(k) of the Act the Department is unaware of any specific cost to law enforcement agencies or any litigation regarding the implementation of the Act. The United States Food and Drug Administration has not altered its position regarding the use of marijuana for medical purposes; nor has it approved alternative delivery systems for marijuana.

There has been minimal community response to the implementation of the medical marijuana program. The most frequent request to the Department is for information regarding the purchase of marijuana. There continues to be confusion regarding the availability of marijuana to registered patients and caregivers.

Additional information or questions about the Medical Marijuana Program should be directed to Charles Alexandre, Chief of Health Professions Regulations at (401) 222-2828 or via email to Charles.Alexandre@health.ri.gov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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