6/27/2011 – The first public hearing this legislative session on a bill to legalize medical cannabis in Massachusetts will take place tomorrow, June 28th. The Joint Committee on Public Health will begin testimony at 10AM on H.625. The measure would allow doctors to recommend cannabis and regulate up to nineteen “Medical Treatment Centers” for marijuana across the state.
Representative Frank Smizick (D-Brookline) is sponsoring the bill and issued this statement: “ I’ve met patients with ALS, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, cancer, and other serious diseases who cannot tolerate the side effects of available medications or find them ineffective. Some of these patients have been able to reduce their intake of toxic or addictive medications and others have been able to stay on life-prolonging treatments like chemotherapy by using medical marijuana. As long as use is approved by a doctor, medical marijuana should be an available treatment option for these individuals, just as it is in Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont,” said Smizik.
Matthew Allen at the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance said that residents want to see the law passed. “There is huge public support right now for this reform,” said Allen, “Polling shows 81 percent of residents want us to be the next medical marijuana state. Patients, public health professionals and other groups will be there tomorrow to testify.”
There is also stronger support this session among legislators. “We did triple our co-sponsors between last session and this one,” Allen noted. “That is really is due to the hard work of the patients working with us actually going up to the State House and asking for support.”
Allen is hopeful that more elected officials can be swayed during the public hearings. “When legislators really see the patients with HIV, cancer, ALS – how much they are suffering – and we can explain the multiple levels of regulation in the bill that we find this can be … hopefully the committee will understand that this is a compassionate reform that needs to happen not just for these patients but for the greater cause of public health.”
The bill has earned some important endorsements icnlouding: The Massachusetts Nurses Association, the Massachusetts Public Health Association, the MA Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the MA Breast Cancer Coalition, the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Massachusetts American Civil Liberties Union, the AIDS Action Committee, the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, Cambridge Cares about AIDS, the Teen AIDS Peer Corps, and the Massachusetts Hepatitis Patient Empowerment Project.
“The dozens of patients who will come forward tomorrow are just a small portion of those suffering across the state,” said Allen.
Maine legalized medical marijuana in 1999, Vermont passed in 2004 and Rhode Island in 2006. All three states are now moving towards regulated dispensaries but Maine is the only state on the east coast with facilities open for patients.
Massachusetts decriminalized adult possession of cannabis (for all uses) by a ballot measure in 2008. But doctors are still not allowed to address the issue with seriously ill residents in a fully legal manner.
“Patients are being left behind,” said Allen, “Right now a Massachusetts doctor can write a recommendation for a patient in Rhode Island but not for someone with the same conditions living 2 miles over the border.”
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Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions? email@example.com