medical marijuana

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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

Earlier:

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

Earlier:

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

Related:

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.

Continue reading

More Medical Marijuana Coverage:

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.

Related:

Medical Marijuana 101: What Does A Dispensary Worker Need To Know?

As the marijuana industry takes shape in Massachusetts, it will need a trained workforce. What skills will that person behind the dispensary counter have? How about employees who will process marijuana? Who’s training these workers? Here’s a glimpse as the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis (NIC) in Natick opens its doors.

The Northeastern Institute of Cannabis in Natick (Martha Bebinger/WBUR)

The Northeastern Institute of Cannabis in Natick (Martha Bebinger/WBUR)

On a sunny fall afternoon, men and women sat at tables in a stark white classroom. For that day, the class was called “patient services.”

“Get a complete list of symptoms, right at the beginning,” instructor Bill Downing said. “Ask your patients, ‘How long have you suffered from this condition?’ It gives you a feeling for what their situation is.”

Downing, who is also a marijuana caregiver, clicks through charts that match the reasons patients use marijuana — relief from pain, depression, nausea and glaucoma, with compounds in the plant that are most likely to help.

CannLabs' breakdown of health benefits specific cannabinoids have for certain diseases. (Courtesy of CannLabs)

Click to enlarge: CannLabs’ breakdown of health benefits specific cannabinoids have for certain diseases. (Courtesy of CannLabs)

He runs through the marijuana-infused products his students would be selling at a dispensary: tinctures, lip balm, bubble bath, salves and lotions.

“Topical applications are great for localized pain,” he said. “And they don’t get you high.”

This is one of 12 classes students must complete and pass tests on to receive a certificate from NIC. It’s a for-profit training center with two classrooms in an office park. The course costs $1,500 and covers growing marijuana, legal, business, science and regulatory issues.

“This industry’s coming, and we need to be ready to train the workers,” said NIC events coordinator Chris Foye. “That’s what we’re going to do.”

NIC opened this fall. So far, 14 students have graduated and 70 more are enrolled. There’s one other classroom program in Massachusetts. The New England Grass Roots Institute says its classes are for person enrichment, not professional training. Foye says NIC is filling a demand from dispensary owners who will be required to pay $500 to register each employee yearly with the state. Continue reading

Related:

4 More Mass. Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Approved

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has given three companies provisional approval to open four medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.

Patriot Care Corp., which already has a Lowell dispensary in the works, was approved for dispensaries at 21 Milk St. in Boston and 7 Legion Ave. in Greenfield. Coastal Compassion Inc.’s proposed facility at 2 Pequod Rd. in Fairhaven and Mass Medicum Corp.’s on Revolutionary Drive in Taunton were also approved to enter the inspection and permitting phase.

The four dispensaries are proposed in counties that did not previously have any provisionally approved medical marijuana dispensaries.

Eleven other dispensaries that have already been provisionally approved are currently going through the permitting and inspection process. No dispensaries have received final registration certificates yet.

“We’re really in a fabulous spot,” in terms of the progress DPH is making, medical marijuana program director Karen van Unen said. She added that the first dispensaries are expected to open in late winter.

But the program is considerably behind timetables set under the state law approved by Massachusetts voters in November 2012. DPH has come under fire from patient advocates who say the state isn’t doing enough to ensure patient access to medical marijuana.

As WBUR’s Lynn Jolicoeur reported earlier this year, the DPH has faced widespread criticism for not thoroughly vetting applicants before provisionally approving 20 dispensaries in January:

After revelations of false or misleading claims on applications, and accusations of political favoritism, DPH launched a more thorough verification process and nine of the original 20 dispensaries were eliminated.

There are still no planned medical marijuana dispensaries for four counties — Dukes, Nantucket, Berkshire and Hampden. By law, each county is required to have at least one, but no more than five, dispensaries. There’s also a large swath of the state including Worcester and the surrounding area that has no planned dispensary.

Van Unen acknowledged she’s concerned about the slower-than-expected rollout of the medical marijuana program.

“It’s just as important to us as it is to patients to make sure that access is there, but we also felt very strongly that we need to do this diligently and do it right,” van Unen told WBUR. “We’re able to now start focusing on how we’re going to move forward to ensure that we meet the voters’ will and ensure that we have at least one dispensary in every county, as well as serving the under-served areas.”

DPH recently unveiled its physician and patient medical marijuana registration program and plans to report its first data in February, which van Unen says will allow the agency to better pinpoint areas that need dispensaries.

The state plans to open a new round of dispensary applications sometime next year.

More Medical Marijuana Coverage:

Mystery Author Cornwell Funds $500K Brain Research On Medical Pot At McLean

The administration building at McLean Hospital (Wikimedia Commons)

The administration building at McLean Hospital (Wikimedia Commons)

This just in from McLean Hospital, the Harvard-affiliated psychiatric hospital known as a major center for research on mental health:

Belmont, Mass. – Thanks to a $500,000 gift from international best-selling author and mental health advocate Patricia Cornwell, McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School researchers will launch a landmark new program that will more fully explore the potential impact of medical marijuana on cognition, brain structure and function. This first-of-its-kind program, known as the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) Program, will also gauge study participants’ perceptions of their own quality of life as it relates to medical marijuana treatment.

“We are seeing the country’s view on marijuana shift dramatically and now is the time to allow science to inform our policies and our decisions,” said Cornwell, who is a member of McLean Hospital’s National Council and was presented with the hospital’s highest honor in 2012 for her mental health advocacy. “The MIND Program has the potential to revolutionize what we know about medical marijuana and what we think we know.” Continue reading