medical marijuana


Patient Demand Surges In Opening Year Of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries In Mass.

In 2015, medical marijuana took root in Massachusetts, with four dispensaries now open in Salem, Brockton, Ayer and Northampton more than two years after voters approved a ballot question on the issue. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

In 2015, medical marijuana took root in Massachusetts, with four dispensaries now open in Salem, Brockton, Ayer and Northampton more than two years after voters approved a ballot question on the issue. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

By the numbers, the first year of medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts looks pretty dramatic.

The latest data released by the Department of Public Health shows that 16,510 patients had obtained a certificate from a physician and registered through the state as of Nov. 30.

That’s up from 1,423 in January, a nearly 12-fold increase.

This chart shows the sharp increase in both active and certified medical marijuana patients since October 2014. (Screenshot via DPH)

This chart shows the sharp increase in both active and certified medical marijuana patients since October 2014. (Screenshot via DPH)

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Medical Marijuana Sales Climb As More Dispensaries Open

It looks like supporters of medical marijuana were right. There appears to be a lot of pent-up demand from patients who want weed.

Patients purchased 1,676 ounces in September, as the state’s second dispensary opened in Brockton. That’s a big jump from the 1,488 ounces sold in the two months prior, when only one dispensary, in Salem, was cleared to sell medical marijuana in the state.

The sales data was released for the first time Thursday, on a dashboard created by the state Department of Public Health.

Source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Click to enlarge)

Source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Click to enlarge)

DPH says it appears as if very few patients are buying up their allowed limit.

“Right now it does appear as people are buying a small amount of marijuana per transaction,” said Scott Zoback, a DPH spokesman. “That is something we continue to watch.”

The allowed limit is up to 10 ounces in a 60-day period, although that has been reduced to 4.23 ounces as the state reviews safety testing criteria.

Some patients report that dispensaries are restricting the amount of each sale in order to stretch a supply that is not meeting demand.

In Good Health, the Brockton store, was so busy it closed for several days toward the end of September. A spokesman said demand exceeded supply and the dispensary ran low because there were delays at one of the labs that tests medical marijuana before it is cleared for sale.

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A Warehouse Full Of Legal Weed: Medical Marijuana Takes Root In Brockton

The hallway is white, pristine, almost corporate. But the operation behind one nondescript door is something completely new and different for Massachusetts.

Five-hundred plants in white, 5-gallon buckets sway and grow strong in a breeze created by fans. Rows of LED lights turn the room purple, blue, green or red, depending on which spectrum the plants need for optimum growth. The air is moist. And there’s a hint of a certain smell in the air: the tangy, musky scent of marijuana.

Welcome to one of the state’s first legal pot farms, this one attached to a Brockton medical marijuana dispensary called In Good Health.

Marijuana plants at In Good Health in Brockton (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Marijuana plants at In Good Health in Brockton. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Earlier this year, renting a 13,000-square-foot warehouse and planting several thousand marijuana seeds might have triggered a massive police bust, hefty fines and some serious time behind bars. But in April, this Brockton firm received its state license to grow marijuana for medical purposes.

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Medical Marijuana Is Now For Sale In Mass.

Marijuana plants at In Good Health Inc., in Brockton (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Marijuana plants at In Good Health Inc., in Brockton (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

There’s another milestone in the storied history of Salem. On Wednesday, the state’s first dispensary for medical marijuana opened on the ground floor of a former factory here, a few blocks off a busy thoroughfare. Continue reading


For Salem Dispensary, Mass. Issues One-Time Waiver From Marijuana Safety Tests

Massachusetts’ first medical marijuana dispensary will be allowed to open, but for limited sales, while the state reviews safety standards.

Marijuana grown so far tests for lead higher than allowed in Massachusetts, and the state says labs are not equipped to test for seven of 18 restricted pesticides. But the Baker administration will let Alternative Therapy Group, a proposed dispensary in Salem, open as long as it limits each patient to 4.23 ounces and instructs patients to consume no more than two grams a day.

Marijuana plants at In Good Health Inc., in Brockton (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Marijuana plants at In Good Health Inc., in Brockton (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

“Patients have waited to access marijuana for medical purposes for far too long,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement. “This waiver will allow industry laboratories a little more time to reach full operation while providing safe amounts of medical marijuana for qualifying patients who need it.” Continue reading


Too Restrictive? Marijuana Labs Raise Concerns About Mass. Lead Regulations

The state’s first medical marijuana dispensary is expected to open in Salem later this month. But it may not have any actual dried marijuana for sale.

The main problem: lead.

“To date, every sample of cannabis that we have tested for heavy metals, particularly lead, would fail the existing regulations  TWEET ,” said Chris Hudalla, the chief scientific officer at ProVerde Laboratories, one of two marijuana testing facilities in Massachusetts.

Hudalla says there is no question that elevated lead levels would be dangerous for patients. But he claims the state standard is too restrictive and unrealistic. It is based on the assumption that patients will ingest 1 ounce a day — much more than most patients would reasonably use.

The amount of lead allowed in Massachusetts (212 parts per billion) is nearly 14 times lower than Connecticut and almost 50 times lower than what’s permitted by Colorado. Continue reading


Mass. Revamps ‘Confusing’ Medical Marijuana Dispensary Licensing Process

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is “aggressively” revamping its process for licensing medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, a system the head of the department says has been “confusing and overly lengthy.”

Dispensaries will now be licensed in a process similar to that used for pharmacies, DPH Commissioner Monica Bharel announced at a Public Health Council meeting Wednesday morning.

The current process has “delayed appropriate patients from getting access” to medical marijuana, Bharel said.

Massachusetts voters approved a medical marijuana ballot initiative in November 2012. But the licensing process became bogged down after it came to light that the applicants were not thoroughly vetted before the first round of provisional approvals. Some of those applicants were then eliminated for having misrepresented claims of community support or for other problems with their applications. To date, no dispensaries have opened in the state.

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Medical Marijuana 101: Cheese? White Widow? What’s Up With The Names?

I’m standing in a medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado, reading the list of available strains.

There’s Cheese, recommended for patients with multiple sclerosis, insomnia, a lack of appetite or constipation.

Neon Super Skunk is supposed to help with menstrual cramps, fibromyalgia and back pain.

Kind of silly, whatever.

Then I see White Widow, for patients with PTSD and hepatitis C. And Jack the Ripper is billed as relief from chronic pain, depression and anxiety.

Really? My vet buddies are going to try White Widow to ease symptoms of PTSD?

And a patient with anxiety would put their faith in Jack the Ripper for relief?

Several websites caution patients that “it can be hard to put aside the names and focus on what really counts — symptom relief.”

But Dr. Paul Bregman, who runs Medical Cannabis Consulting in Denver, disagrees.

“People are not put off by a name,” Bregman says. “If someone tells you that Jack the Ripper will help your rheumatoid arthritis, people will use it, despite the name.”

Strains are named by their breeder, the person who uses cross-pollination to create a new plant variety. Pretty much anything goes, although some dispensaries do not stock strains that contradict the image of marijuana as a healing agent (like Green Crack and Alaskan Thunder F—).

There does not appear to be any real movement to align recommended medical use with a name. Continue reading

Medical Marijuana 101: What It’s Like Inside A Colorado Dispensary

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Jars labeled butterscotch, chocolate mint and caramel macchiato tea glisten inside the lit refrigerator. The shelf above is stacked with pizza, flatbreads and butter. The one below has lemon bars, brownies and cookies.

The fridge could be in any higher-end grab-and-go lunch stop. But to shop here, you must present a medical marijuana patient card. And the ingredient list includes the type of pot, along with flour, sugar, milk, etc.

This is Trichome Health Consultants, a medical marijuana dispensary tucked into a line of glass storefronts on a semi-commercial strip in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As Massachusetts prepares to open its first dispensary, possibly in April, this is a glimpse into the future. Continue reading

First Dispensary Cleared To Grow Marijuana In Massachusetts

It looks like the first medical marijuana dispensary will open in Salem. But Alternative Therapies Group, Inc. (ATG) must clear several hurdles before it rings up a sale of marijuana for medical use. The certificate announced Wednesday allows ATG to plant seeds at its cultivation site in Amesbury.

Assuming a three-month growing cycle, the storefront in Salem could begin selling marijuana in April. But the plants must be tested for mold, heavy metals, pesticides and potency. State officials say they will review dispensary labeling and transportation plans, as well as conduct unannounced inspections, before the dispensary is allowed to open for business.

Some patients have criticized the state for a slow roll-out of the medical marijuana law voters approved in 2012.

“While this process has taken some time, we wanted to make sure that we got it right, this is a brand new industry,” Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz said.

Fourteen dispensaries are still under review for certification.

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said in a statement she’s pleased that a dispensary in her city has received the state’s first medical marijuana certificate.

“Salem has long been a progressive, forward-thinking, and open-minded community and we look forward to ATC starting operation and providing yet another critical medical choice to patients for the entire North Shore,” Driscoll said.

And in Amesbury, “I am happy to see them [ATG] reach this milestone,” said Mayor Ken Gray. “I look forward to seeing ATG develop as a positive contributor to the Amesbury community.”

WBUR’s Martha Bebinger contributed reporting.