Mass Med Card

Northampton MA Dispensary Is “Turnkey” And Ready To Open


Northampton dispensary 230x153 photo

ML – NORTHAMPTON — A brand-new medical marijuana dispensary located in a former Northampton physicians office is in turnkey condition, ready to open its doors, and only awaits a final Certificate of Registration from the state to start selling cannabis products, officials said this week.

Building inspectors have signed off on all local permits, including construction, plumbing, and electrical work at 118 Conz St., the future home of New England Treatment Access, according to city records. The project gained site plan approval from the Northampton Planning Board in May.

New England Treatment Access spokeswoman Dot Joyce said Monday the non-profit, headed by Swampscott resident Arnon Vered, expects it will soon receive its license from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which will allow it to begin grow operations at its facility in Franklin.

“Things are going very well,” said Joyce.

Even then, because Massachusetts law requires that dispensaries grow their first batch of marijuana from seed, there will be a several-months delay between licensure and the time the Northampton dispensary has any products to sell, said Joyce.

New England Treatment Access plans dispensaries in Brookline and Northampton as well as the Franklin grow facility. The two dispensaries are among 11 given the green light by last June to enter the final segment, or “inspectional phase,” of the state permitting process.

Department of Public Health spokesman Scott Zoback said Tuesday the inspectional phase entails numerous site visits and inspections. Applicants must demonstrate their readiness to cultivate, package, and distribute medical marijuana in a safe and secure manner that’s in compliance with all laws and regulations.

“It’s a soup-to-nuts check before final approval,” said Zoback, who declined to estimate how long it might be before a decision is reached.

Zoback explained that Massachusetts is a “seed-to-sale” state, meaning that all products sold at the Northampton dispensary must be manufactured from marijuana grown at the Franklin facility. While the first batch must be grown from seed, other propagation methods will be allowed once the original plants are established, he confirmed.

Zoback also said the final license would allow for cultivation to begin, with additional inspections needed before the two dispensaries open to the public.

On New Year’s Eve, the DPH issued its first Certificate of Registration ever to Alternative Therapies Group, Inc., in Salem. ATG is now licensed to grow, but has not yet opened its dispensary doors.

It’s been a long road for New England Treatment Access in its bid to open a dispensary in Northampton.

Of 181 original applicants, NETA was one of 20 to receive a “provisional dispensary license” in January 2014. In August, former governor Deval Patrick put the organization’s application on hold after reports that CEO Kevin Fisher had embellished his resume. Fisher stepped down, CFO Vered filled his shoes, and the DPH lifted the hold in November.

In the meantime, provisional pot licenses granted to companies associated with former Congressman William Delahunt and Springfield businessman Heriberto Flores were rescinded last summer. Flores was deemed “not responsible or suitable to operate a medical marijuana dispensary” wrote Karen van Unen, executive director of the Medical Use of Marijuana Program. State regulators told Delahunt in June that his three applications were off the table because he planned to divert excessive profits to a management company in which he had a financial interest.

The state licensing process, deeply flawed from the start, sparked more than two-dozen lawsuits, according to the Boston Globe. More than two years after Massachusetts voters approved the medical use of marijuana, not a single dispensary has opened.

The DPH had originally hoped to approved 35 dispensaries by the end of 2013.

125094 728x90 photo
03/05/2015 |

Greenfield MA Doctor Advertising Medical Marijuana Cards On A Billboard


marijuana billboard massachusetts photo

WGGB – Medical marijuana was approved by Massachusetts voters more than two years ago but to date we have yet to see a dispensary open.

The Massachusetts Department of Public health has come under fire from some who say the state isn’t doing enough to allow patient access to medical marijuana.

A local doctor is making sure that when those dispensaries open, the patients who need medical marijuana will have it.

There is a billboard along I-291 in Springfield.

It advertises finding relief with medical marijuana.

DocsConsult Medical says people are taking notice,” The reason I put the billboard up was because I wanted the public to know that there does exist a physician owned and a physician run practice in terms of consultation for medical marijuana,” says Dr. Kwesi Ntiforo.

Dr. Ntiforo says he carefully screens a patient before certifying them for medical marijuana,” It involves considering the patient’s health condition, anticipating how marijuana could adversely affect these health conditions and setting up a kind of monitoring system,” says Dr. Ntiforo.

Dr. Ntiforo says there is a need for medical marijuana for certain patients,” One of the most common complaints is chronic pain, the next leading cause of complaints is muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis,” says Dr. Ntiforo.

So as medical marijuana dispensaries prepare to open across Massachusetts, those who are certified for its use continue to wait to get the treatment they feel will help ease the pain from their conditions.

The medical marijuana dispensary here in Greenfield is going up at this old American Legion building.

It is being converted for that use right now.

They expect the dispensary to open some time in the Spring.

125094 728x90 photo
02/26/2015 |

Two Congressmen Introduced Bills To Legalize Marijuana Federally


Marijuana rx Bottle 230x230 photoCC – Yes, the United States federal government might just legalize marijuana. Two congressmen just filed two separate House Bills on Friday that together would legalize marijuana at the federal level. That means an effective end to the U.S. government’s prohibition policy on the plant.

Representative Jared Polis (D-Colorado) recently introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. This Bill proposes just what it sounds like. Marijuana would be legal, but regulated like alcohol. The Bill would completely remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act’s schedules.

The Drug Enforcement Administration would no longer have any say or oversight in policing and regulating the plant. Instead, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, would handle regulation of legal marijuana in the same way they regulate alcohol.

Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) also introduced the separate Marijuana Tax Revenue Act, which imposes a federal excise tax for regulated marijuana. While that might sound like a huge bummer to marijuana users, it provides a big incentive for politicians to make a progressive move on legalization.

States could still enact their own, individual prohibitions, but the federal ban that exists today would be gone.

Four states as well as the District of Columbia have completely legalized recreational marijuana. Washington DC still prohibits the sale of the plant, however. But beyond that, there are 23 states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Proponents of legalization say it is only a matter of time before there is federal legalization… so what better time than now?

“While President Obama and the Justice Department have allowed the will of voters in states like Colorado and 22 other jurisdictions to move forward, small business owners, medical marijuana patients, and others who follow state laws still live with the fear that a new administration — or this one — could reverse course and turn them into criminals,” Representative Polis explained in a statement released on Friday.

“It is time for us to replace the failed prohibition with a regulatory system that works and let states and municipalities decide for themselves if they want, or don’t want, to have legal marijuana within their borders.”

Representative Blumenauer said that the federal prohibition of marijuana has been “a failure” and a profound waste of tax dollars that have needlessly ruined lives.

“As more states move to legalize marijuana as Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Alaska have done,” Blumenauer added, “it’s imperative the federal government become a full partner in building a workable and safe framework.”

125094 728x90 photo
02/22/2015 |

Government Study Shows Driving On Marijuana No More Dangerous Than Sober


driving marijuana 230x182 photoA government study on impaired driving released last week found that drivers who had used marijuana were at a far lower risk of getting into a car accident than drivers who had used alcohol.

The Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk report, produced by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, found that while drunken driving dramatically increased the risk of getting into an accident, there was no evidence that using marijuana heightened that risk. In fact, after adjusting for age, gender, race and alcohol use, the report found that stoned drivers were no more likely to crash than drivers who were not intoxicated at all.

However, the federal researchers say that their report’s findings “do not indicate that drug use by drivers is risk-free,” adding that “the study limitations… together with the findings of numerous other studies using different and complementary methods, need to be carefully considered before more definitive conclusions about drug use and crash risk can be reached.”

original photo

The data show just how dangerous it is to drive while drunk: The risk of crashing while driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of .05 or above is about seven times higher than the risk of crashing while sober. The likelihood of getting into an accident while using some other substances — including marijuana, antidepressants, painkillers, sedatives and stimulants — is statistically not significantly higher than driving while sober, after adjusting for various demographic factors.

The survey found that marijuana is the second most frequently detected drug, after alcohol, in drivers involved in accidents, as well as in the general driving population. Overall, the researchers found that drivers who tested positive for THC were 25 percent more likely to get in an accident. But after accounting for other characteristics that can be associated with an increase in crash risk — factors like age, gender and race — the study found that the risk of a crash nearly vanished in drivers who had used marijuana.

“This analysis shows that the significant increased risk of crash involvement associated with THC and illegal drugs… is not found after adjusting for these demographic variables,” the report reads. “This finding suggests that these demographic variables may have co-varied with drug use and accounted for most of the increased crash risk. For example, if the THC-positive drivers were predominantly young males, their apparent crash risk may have been related to age and gender rather than use of THC.”

For the study, NHTSA research teams responded to crashes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, over a 20-month period during 2013 and 2014. Researchers also gathered data on thousands of other drivers not involved in crashes. When recording information on drivers who had used marijuana, researchers only included those who specifically tested positive for THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid in the plant associated with the “high” sensation. Drivers who tested positive for any of the inactive cannabinoids in marijuana were not considered “positive.”

NHTSA says in the report that the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska has increased concern over the potential risks of driving while impaired by marijuana.

In Colorado and Washington, lawmakers have enacted impairment standards for marijuana, similar to those that exist for alcohol. In both states, a driver is presumed to be too impaired to drive if his or her THC-blood level is higher than five nanograms of active THC per millimeter of blood.

However, last week’s report highlights how difficult it is to use traditional methods to determine how substances other than alcohol impair drivers. Unlike blood-alcohol level, which is directly correlated with one’s inability to drive, THC-blood levels don’t necessarily indicate a clear level of impairment.

“Most psychoactive drugs are chemically complex molecules, whose absorption, action, and elimination from the body are difficult to predict, and considerable differences exist between individuals with regard to the rates with which these processes occur,” NHTSA writes. “Alcohol, in comparison, is more predictable.”

The trouble arises in the way the body processes marijuana — a person who has consumed the substance can potentially test positive for THC days after using. In a 2009 study published in the journal Addiction, six of 25 participants who had consumed marijuana still tested positive for active levels of THC seven days later — long after they had stopped feeling the effects of the cannabis.

“Nobody should drive while impaired by any substance, and that’s why there are laws on the books to address it,” Mason Tvert, communications director for Marijuana Policy Project, a drug policy reform group, told The Huffington Post in response to the study’s findings. “While the research is pretty clear that marijuana use is not remotely as problematic as alcohol, it can cause impairment for some people when used at certain levels. It’s worth noting that there is also research that has shown people who have used marijuana are more likely to recognize if they are impaired than those who have used alcohol.”

It’s not the first time that THC content in a person’s blood stream has been shown to be a rather unreliable indicator of impairment.

In 2011, a marijuana reporter in Denver memorably demonstrated THC’s unpredictable effect on the body. After a night of sleep and 15 hours without smoking pot, the reporter’s THC-blood level was nearly three times higher than the proposed legal limit.

Then in 2013, a Washington state television station assembled a group of volunteers, had them smoke pot and set them loose on a driving test course to try to answer the question: How high is too high to drive?

Unfortunately, the less-than-scientific results, while entertaining, didn’t yield much clarity. One regular smoker of marijuana tested above the legal limit, yet drove without much of a problem. Two casual smokers also navigated the course without incident. However, after smoking more marijuana, some of the participants quickly grew less adept behind the wheel.

Although the federal government’s marijuana ban has stifled some research on the drug, the most comprehensive federal study on how marijuana and alcohol impact drivers is currently ongoing and is expected to add some more clarity to the issue.

125094 728x90 photo
02/12/2015 |

U.S. Surgeon General Admits Marijuana Has Medical Benefits


sg 230x176 photoSurgeon General Vivek Murthy believes in science.

DB – As he answered questions Wednesday about the measles outbreak that is turning into the year’s first public health emergency, the 37-year-old doctor assured Americans that vaccines are safe and that government policy is informed by sound data and scientific consensus. When CBS This Morning host Gayle King pivoted to ask Murthy for his views on marijuana, the country’s youngest ever surgeon general gave an answer that was at once historic and entirely consistent with his scientific approach.

“We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms that marijuana can be helpful,” Murthy said. “We have to use that data to drive policy making.”

While a first for a surgeon general, this was not actually a risky statement. Murthy’s belief is in line with the positions of the American College of Physicians (PDF), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, the American Nurses Association (PDF), the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (PDF), The California Medical Association (PDF), Dr. Sanjay Gupta, countless less famous but equally sincere physicians, and laws in 23 states and the District of Washington that permit the use of marijuana for medical conditions including multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, epilepsy, and a host of cancer-related symptoms.

But the statement also seemed to put the nation’s top health official in direct conflict with federal law. To the Department of Justice and its Drug Enforcement Agency, marijuana remains, along with heroin, a Schedule I narcotic, defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use.” Cocaine and crystal meth, on the other hand, are listed as Schedule II drugs, with “less abuse potential.”

This absurd policy has been inexplicable for so long, that the nation’s highest officials have given up trying to defend it.

“I don’t think it’s more dangerous than alcohol,” President Obama said to The New Yorker’s David Remnick about marijuana last year. Casual as his remark seemed, Obama rocked the drug reform movement. Just weeks after the president said what a sizable majority of Americans already agreed with, a group of 18 representatives from nine states took a stand on the issue and, in a gesture of bi-partisan consent, wrote a letter (PDF) that called on Obama to take executive action.

“We were encouraged by your recent comments in your interview with David Remnick,” the name-dropping representatives wrote. “Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system. We request that you instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate was, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II.”

This absurd policy has been inexplicable for so long, that the nation’s highest officials have given up trying to defend it.
Nine months later, in his exit interview with Katie Couric, Holder passed the buck right back.

“At the federal level marijuana is still classified in the same category as heroin,” Couric said. “In your view should that change?”

“I think that’s certainly a question that we need to ask ourselves,” Holder said, “whether or not marijuana is as serious a drug as is heroin.” Couric nodded and as Holder weighed the pros and cons, she pressed him on decriminalization. That, he said, is “something for Congress to decide.”

Congressional action might be Holder’s preference, but it is not actually mandated by the law.

“Eric Holder could initiate that process today if he wanted to,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, a decriminalization advocacy group, and pointed out that the 1970 Controlled Substances Act gives the attorney general sweeping power to define and classify the full schedule of illegal drugs. At the same time, Angell said, “Congress could pass a bill to move marijuana from Schedule I to a lesser one, or make it unscheduled, like alcohol or tobacco.”

But as public opinion on the issue passes the super majority mark, neither branch of government has made a move. “In essence, the Justice Department and Congress are both begging each other to fix federal marijuana laws,” wrote Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post. An aide to Senator Rand Paul told The Daily Beast that the Kentucky lawmaker is considering a bill this year that would reschedule the drug. “It’s a work in progress,” the aide said, but couldn’t offer any specifics.
In his interview with Couric, Holder left open the possibility that his department could one day endorse rescheduling marijuana. Whatever is decided, Holder said the government should let science be the guide. “Use science as the basis for that determination,” he said.

A Department of Justice spokesman said, “the Department supports research into potential medical uses of marijuana.” Surgeon General Murthy told the Daily Beast that “marijuana policy—and all public health policies—should be driven by science” and that “the Federal Government has and continues to fund research on possible health benefits of marijuana and its components.”

The problem with this, said Angell, is how difficult it is even for academic institutions to gain government approval for such studies. The American Medical Association (AMA), one of the most conservative organizations on marijuana decriminalization, changed its long-held position on classification in 2009. Marijuana’s ongoing schedule I classification “limits the access to cannabinols for even research,” said Edward L. Langston, MD, an AMA Board of Trustees member. “It is very difficult,” he told American Medical News, to legally research the substance. A report by the AMA Council on Science and Public Health that same year found that, “bureaucratic hurdles apply to cannabis research that do not impede other drug investigations.”

Evidence for the claim is not hard to find. At the University of Massachusetts, an agricultural professor has been trying for more than 15 years to gain approval to grow cannabis for research. In Kentucky, the DEA finally released a shipment of research-bound hemp seeds last May, but only after the state’s agricultural commissioner sued the agency in federal court.

The medical community and public opinion has come a long way in the 20 years since Dr. Jocelyn Elders, Surgeon General under President Bill Clinton, took flak for defending decriminalization. But even as a new surgeon general calls for more science, Angell said the research opportunities won’t change until the laws do, and that politicians are lagging behind most Americans on the issue.

“They don’t realize that a majority of Americans are ready for medical marijuana to be legalized,” he said. “They perceive it as dangerous when it is not.”

125094 728x90 photo
02/07/2015 |
Copyright 2013
Copyright 2013