Mass Med Card

Western Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Dispensary Opens For Hundreds Of Patients


2015 01 01 MedicalMarijuana photo 230x223 photo

Source – It’s been an emotional week for hundreds of western Massachusetts patients who finally have access to medical marijuana.

New England Treatment Access spokesperson, Norton Arbelaez told 22News they’re glad they can help people with various conditions for the first time. “Just to see the face of the patients coming in for the first time and making their first legal purchase is something that will forever move us after a lifetime of having to go to the black market and be treated like criminals, people now have safe place to do this in,” he said.

New England Treatment Access opened its Northampton dispensary Monday. 22News took a closer look inside where, with a medical card, patients can purchase anything from regular marijuana, to infused products like ointments, edibles and capsules.

A monitor hangs on a wall inside the dispensary showing real-time marijuana cultivation in Franklin Massachusetts. Once the marijuana plants are ready, they’re then sent over to Northampton, where they’re sold to more than 600 patients.

Every product is grown and made in Massachusetts; tested, and labeled with a potency level and batch number. Once in Northampton, several sales associates are available to help patients choose the right product. Everything sold is then packaged in a childproof container leaving the dispensary.

22News spoke to James Sklar, his wife suffers from Crohn’s Disease, and he said getting here has been a long process. “She suffers every day and I’ve seen her, she was bedridden all winter and I was like when is this going to open? And it’s like, we have the recommendation but there’s no where to get it so I feel like finally this is going to help her, I’m just tired of seeing her suffer,” he said.

The medical marijuana community still has one more hurdle to clear; these products aren’t yet covered by health insurance.

Patients need a doctor’s prescription and approval from the Department of Public Health to get a medical marijuana card.

09/30/2015 |

Massachusetts Woman Sues After Being Fired For Medical Marijuana Use


1 230x230 photoSource – When Cristina Barbuto of Brewster took a job with a marketing firm, she told the company that she used medical marijuana to treat symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

Barbuto says she worked for only one day for Advantage Sales and Marketing, promoting products in a supermarket, and then the company fired her. The reason they gave was that Barbuto failed a required drug test by testing positive for marijuana.

When she complained, she said a human resources representative told Barbuto that the company, which has offices nationwide and in Massachusetts, follows federal, not state law.

Barbuto’s claims were laid out in a complaint she filed in Suffolk County Superior Court accusing Advantage Sales and Marketing of discrimination and invasion of privacy.

Barbuto’s case is the first of its kind in Massachusetts, but her circumstances are not unique. Massachusetts’ fledgling medical marijuana law is largely silent on an employer’s responsibility toward an employee who uses medical marijuana after hours. As medical marijuana dispensaries begin to open and more Massachusetts residents start to use medical marijuana, experts say the question will have to be decided either by the courts or the Legislature.

“Current medical marijuana law and regulations do not address the issue of employment discrimination,” said Nichole Snow, executive director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, which represents medical marijuana patients. “Patients have a false sense of security that they’re going to be protected by the medical cannabis law….No one realizes that there’s no explicit protection in the law.”

Massachusetts’ medical marijuana law explicitly says that employers do not have to accommodate marijuana use in the workplace. But it says nothing about whether employers can forbid medical marijuana use outside the workplace.

Barbuto’s lawyers are seizing on a provision in the law that says a medical marijuana user cannot be penalized under Massachusetts law or “denied any right or privilege” because of using medical marijuana.

They use Massachusetts’ anti-discrimination and privacy laws to argue that the marketing firm discriminated against Barbuto because of her disability and because she treated it with medical marijuana. Even though federal law forbids marijuana use, Barbuto’s lawyers say there is no federal law preventing a company from hiring someone who uses marijuana.

Barbuto’s attorney, Matthew Fogelman, a Newton lawyer specializing in employment law, said Barbuto is able to manage her Crohn’s disease, which causes inflammation of the digestive tract, and perform her job with proper treatment – including the use of medical marijuana at home. “We believe the company discriminated against Ms. Barbuto due to her medical condition and refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to her, which is the use of medical marijuana to treat her medical condition,” Fogelman said.

Fogelman said Barbuto has a certificate from a doctor. Under state law, he said, “She is lawfully entitled to use marijuana for medicinal purposes to treat her medical condition and improve her life.”

Barbuto is also represented by Adam Fine, a Boston lawyer who has tried medical marijuana cases around the country and is active in the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Massachusetts.

I think it will increasingly be an issue, and I think it begs for regulation.

A spokesman for Advantage Sales and Marketing did not return calls.

Barbuto’s case is the first to go to court in Massachusetts, but she is not alone. Templeton resident Steven Drury told The Republican/ before a Statehouse hearing in July that he is a union carpenter who has not worked since 2010 because he takes medical marijuana to treat ulcerative colitis and his union requires a drug test. “The union won’t allow me to work because I have THC in my blood,” Drury said.

Chris Geehern, a spokesman for Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a business trade group, said employers are concerned about medical marijuana use as well. “It’s an issue we hear about on a regular basis from employers who are trying to balance workplace safety with the changing laws surrounding medical marijuana use,” said Geehern.

Tamsin Kaplan, an employment lawyer at Davis, Malm & D’Agostine in Boston, said she is often asked by the employers she represents how to deal with medical marijuana use outside the workplace. “It’s a huge issue,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan said while the medical marijuana law does not address it, she looks at privacy and discrimination law and advises clients that they can require drug tests if there is an issue of safety – for example, for a forklift driver. But if there is no safety issue, she tells clients to judge an employee by their performance at work.

“I advise clients to carefully balance legitimate business interests that are at stake against the privacy interest of the employee,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan said judges in other states – including California, Montana and Washington – have generally found in favor of employers, ruling that they can fire employees for using medical marijuana. But those cases are not binding on a Massachusetts court and each state’s medical marijuana law has different wording, so a Massachusetts judge could potentially rule otherwise.

Anyone working for the federal government or subject to federal regulations – such as truck drivers – may be drug tested and cannot use marijuana due to the federal law.

The confusion has led to calls to change state law. State Rep. Frank Smizik, D-Brookline, has sponsored a bill that would bar employment discrimination against medical marijuana users, prohibiting companies from using a worker’s status as a medical marijuana patient against them in hiring or firing.

“Currently, medical marijuana patients have to worry not only about their medical issues, but whether their current or future employment is in jeopardy,” Smizik said. “As a state, we have chosen to recognize the benefits of medical marijuana, and this choice comes with the responsibility of ensuring that patients can access their medicine without the fear of losing their livelihoods.”

State Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, an opponent of medical marijuana legalization who has called for a tightening of the state’s medical marijuana laws, said he thinks employer-employee relations will increasingly become problematic as more people start using medical marijuana. For example, he said a company might have one employee using medical marijuana for a legitimate medical purpose and another who has a medical marijuana certification but is using the drug recreationally. “How does an employer differentiate between those and should there be a need for an employer to differentiate?” Keenan said.

“I think it will increasingly be an issue, and I think it begs for regulation,” Keenan said.

09/17/2015 |

Massachusett’s First Marijuana Dispensary Served A Year’s Worth Of People In 2 Months


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Source – The executive director of the state’s first and only medical marijuana dispensary said this week that in just two months of operation, it provided cannabis to 1,500 patients — the first measure of consumer demand for the product in Massachusetts.

That dispensary, Alternative Therapies Group in Salem,was granted permission by state regulators on Wednesday to expand its offerings, receiving permission to fill orders for first-time products such as marijuana oils and baked goods, which many patients prefer over smoking marijuana.

Regulators also moved Wednesday to allow a second dispensary to open. A Brockton company, In Good Health, was issued a temporary state waiver to sell cannabis that has not been fully tested for pesticides and other contaminants. Laboratories in Massachusetts are still struggling to complete quality testing required by the state health department under rules considered to be among the most stringent in the country.

Nichole Snow, executive director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, said the state’s decision to grant a waiver allowing sale of marijuana-infused products in Salem is welcome news, but hardly enough to meet demand.

In its application for a state license, Alternative Therapies projected it would serve about 1,500 patients its first year in business, the number they ended up serving in two months. But the initial estimate was adjusted upward. Far fewer licenses than expected were granted for the first year, increasing demand at the dispensaries that would open.

More than 20,000 people have obtained the required physician certifications to legally buy marijuana for medical use, and nearly 12,000 of them have completed registration to shop in a dispensary, state records show.

“There are a lot of patients out there who still need access to medical marijuana, and the big concern is that they are getting medicine from an unregulated market,” Snow said. “We want the lab testing to be thorough but not so stringent that dispensaries can’t provide the medicine patients need.”

Fifteen dispensaries have received provisional licenses, but until Wednesday only Alternative Therapies had been approved to start selling marijuana. The company opened June 24 with a long line of patients waiting at the door.

Under the latest waivers, the Salem and Brockton companies will be allowed to dispense a maximum of only 4.23 ounces of marijuana to patients every two months. Patients will be instructed to consume no more than 2 grams a day. When testing problems are worked out, patients will be allowed to buy up to 10 ounces of marijuana every two months, under state rules.

The waiver granted to In Good Health does not allow the Brockton company to sell marijuana-infused products, leaving Salem the lone company with the state’s blessing to sell such items. A spokesman for In Good Health declined comment.

In issuing the waivers, state health commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel said it would “cause undue hardship” to patients if regulators prohibited all sales until the marijuana products passed full screening tests.

“Noncompliance does not jeopardize the health or safety of any patient or the public,” Bharel said in letters to each of the companies.

Chemists at two labs preparing to test dispensary products said state guidelines are far too rigorous, particularly for screening metal contaminants such as cadmium. Regulators issued the guidelines in May, but the chemists said that was not nearly enough time to buy, calibrate, and test equipment sensitive enough to detect pesticides and metal contaminants to the levels required by the state.

“This is turning out to be the most stringently tested products on the market,” said Michael Kahn, president of MCR Labs in Framingham.

Kahn said he hopes his lab will be ready by the end of this month. Christopher Hudalla, chief scientific officer at ProVerde Laboratories in Milford, said his team has been able to screen for 14 of 18 pesticides monitored under the state rules, and is working with an outside lab to cobble a solution for detecting the problematic metal contaminants.

The leader of a trade association representing dispensaries said he is “deeply concerned” that the state’s testing limits, if not adjusted, may prevent patients from accessing marijuana. “We hope that [the health department] will remain receptive to new information and willing to improve their testing standards so they are logical, scientific, not unduly burdensome, and protective of the health and safety of both patients and the citizens of the Commonwealth,” said Kevin Gilnack, executive director of the Commonwealth Dispensary Association.

The testing dilemma is not unique to Massachusetts. Dispensaries in Nevada have also been struggling with strict screening limits, delaying some openings and forcing others to toss entire batches of marijuana because they exceeded state limits for pesticides, metals, and other contaminants.

Massachusetts voters in November 2012 overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana. But the awarding of dispensary licenses quickly became mired in controversy. The system was revamped and streamlined earlier this year by Governor Charlie Baker’s administration.

Since the retooling, an additional 107 applications have been submitted by companies hoping to open dispensaries.

09/03/2015 |

Northampton Marijuana Dispensary Now Pre-Registering Patients For September Opening


NETA 230x170 photoNew England Treatment Access is opening a dispensary in Northampton in mid-September. It’s holding pre-registration for cardholding patients Thursdays through Saturdays starting August 20th. Expecting to serve up to 5,000 people, spokesman Norton Arbelaez says the company will be working with 60 strains of marijuana with more than 20 on the shelves at any given time.

“A range of infused products all the way from lotions, capsules, edibles and even medical marijuana-infused water,” said Arbelaez.

In constant contact with Northampton Police, Arbelaez says NETA has a full-time security director and will have a guard on site. The company plans to employ about 135 people statewide, including 25 in Northampton.

08/24/2015 |

First Medical Marijuana Dispensary Opens In Massachusetts


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1 230x230 photoFox – The first medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts opened Wednesday – by appointment only – nearly three years after voters overwhelmingly approved the drug’s therapeutic use.

Patients lined up outside the Alternative Therapies Group’s dispensary in Salem a day after state regulators signed off on its final paperwork.

Access to the dispensary in a converted factory building that houses other businesses will be restricted to patients with a state-issued marijuana registration card.

No marijuana is grown or processed at the Salem site. The company said their cultivation facility is not open to the public.

On its website, Alternative Therapies Group said Department of Public Health regulations prevent dispensaries from advertising the price of marijuana. Pricing is available only to qualifying patients and personal caregivers at the dispensary facility.

“Our pricing structure is aimed at providing medical-grade cannabis, grown with organic methods, in a safe environment at the lowest price,” the firm said on its website.

Patients with a documented financial hardship could qualify to purchase one ounce per month with a discount, but that their hardship program has limited capacity, the company said.

Alternative Therapies Group said they will offer a variety of strains of marijuana grown with organic methods, initially in bud form only.

Over time, the company hopes to expand their product line “to include more strains and MIPs (Marijuana Infused Products), such as tinctures, baked goods, topical creams, salves and vaporizer pens.” The company also said it is not now selling seeds or plants.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday issued a one-time, temporary waiver allowing Alternative Therapies Group to open despite issues with testing required under state law.

Under regulations adopted by Massachusetts, samples of medicinal marijuana must be examined for cannabinoids, solvents, mycotoxins and other microbiological contaminants along with heavy metals and pesticides.

Alternative Therapy Group submitted samples, but labs in Massachusetts were unable to test for seven of the 18 mandated pesticides. Under current state regulations, that would have made the marijuana unable to be sold by Massachusetts dispensaries.

The waiver allows Alternative Therapy Group to sell marijuana for medical use with a label that discloses to the consumer the chemicals that were not tested.

Voters approved a ballot question in 2012 allowing for the licensing of up to 35 outlets to sell marijuana to patients suffering from conditions including cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

Implementation of the law has sputtered and no other dispensaries have opened, but the state’s legal marijuana landscape could soon become even more expansive.

Two pro-marijuana groups are vowing to put questions on next year’s ballot fully legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.

Massachusetts voters have been open to relaxing marijuana laws. In 2008, voters approved a question decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.

06/25/2015 |
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