Mass Med Card

Former Rep. Delahunt Quits Medical Marijuana Business



delahunt pot photo

CCT – Former U.S. Rep. William Delahunt quits Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, which was sailing along with a proposal to open dispensaries in Mashpee, Plymouth and Taunton before state officials reversed course and rescinded the group’s provisional licenses in June.

He has been approached by a group seeking to expand addiction treatment services in the Northeast and can’t do both, Delahunt said on Monday.

“There’s just so much that one could do,” he said.

Delahunt told the other Medical Marijuana board members on Monday morning he was going to announce his departure, he said.

“They understood,” Delahunt said.

Jonathan Herlihy, Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts’ chief operating officer, said that while the announcement came Monday, he and the other board members had known it was coming for a while.

Massachusetts voters approved the ballot initiative on medical use of marijuana in November 2012, with 63 percent of the vote in support.

Delahunt was president and a director of the nonprofit company, which was initially awarded three of the 20 provisional dispensary licenses handed out by the state Department of Public Health in January. He had served as an officer for Triple M, the group’s management company, but stepped down from that position in January.

In June, the Public Health Department changed its mind after a more thorough review of the applications. There was also backlash over the nonprofit’s projected salaries; Delahunt’s political and personal connections, especially his friendship with Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett; and the former congressman’s success in acquiring provisional licenses.

The state sent letters of “non-selection” to Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, based on the department’s concern over the profit projected to be channeled to the nonprofit’s management company and for misleading statements in the application regarding support from state Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth.

Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts countered that state health officials couldn’t legally take back the provisional certificates.

Both Delahunt and Bartlett have maintained that the decisions about who received the provisional licenses were based on merit.

“The process was entirely devoid of political influence,” Delahunt said Monday.

“We’re actively engaged in a complaint against the DPH on their decision to take away our provisional licenses,” Herlihy said.

The group has already sunk $1.5 million into a cultivation facility in Plymouth and other expenses, Herlihy said.

“We’ve put too much effort in this to walk away,” he said, adding that it wouldn’t be fair to the communities where they would be located.

Mary LeClair, a former county commissioner, said she is still on board as liaison for the group in the town of Mashpee if a dispensary is built there, despite the departure of her longtime friend Delahunt. But she said she is keeping busy with other things in the meantime.

“I’m not a lawyer,” she said about the lawsuit. “Let that take its own course.”

But, she said, “If Bill called me and wanted me to do something, I’d do it.”

Delahunt was helpful because his reputation kept away unwanted elements that might otherwise become involved in a marijuana-related business, Herlihy said.

“We don’t want the bad guys to come near us,” he said.

In addition, Delahunt attracted a group of people still working with the company, Herlihy said.

“We have a better plan and a better product because of Bill Delahunt,” he said.

But the attention brought by his connection to Bartlett, including her $500 campaign contribution in 2007, wouldn’t go away, Herlihy said.

“This story was never going to end,” he said.

Delahunt described attempts to open medical marijuana dispensaries in the state as a “long and winding road” but said he has confidence that his former colleagues will succeed.

“I will still be supportive of and advocating for Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts,” Delahunt said.

The new group he is working with, which he declined to name, is directly involved in addiction treatment, Delahunt said.

“I don’t know if they’ll have any success,” he said about the new group. “I think it’s a worthy endeavor.”

Delahunt said his decision to opt out of the medical marijuana business was not based on the hurdles facing the nonprofit group.

He also praised the people who worked with him.

“If they prevail, and I’m confident that they will, they’ll be the gold standard that I referred to,” he said. “They’re just a terrific group and they’re that good.”

Delahunt dismissed the idea that he or anyone else was in the medical marijuana business for the money.

“By the way, it’s not a good investment and I was never an investor,” he said. “These people are motivated by a real sense of altruism. So the whole greed thing is baloney.”

He also praised Bartlett.

“Cheryl Bartlett is an outstanding individual, a true professional and somebody whose service to the community has been extraordinary,” he said.

Delahunt is the second prominent person affiliated with Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts to step down.

In May, Raymond Tamasi, president and CEO of Gosnold on Cape Cod, gave up his consulting position with the company following public criticism.

Delahunt said he still believes in the efficacy of medical marijuana, quoting a recent study that showed a 25 percent drop in opiate overdoses in states where medical marijuana is legal.

“I had always believed that marijuana for medical purposes would serve as an alternative to pharmaceutical heroin,” he said.

09/16/2014 |

More Medical Marijuana Lawsuits For Massachusetts – What A Mess


court weed photo

ICBC - Determining the best candidates to receive a medical marijuana dispensary license is important. It’s not just about who has the best business background, or who has the most money. The right people need to get licenses to ensure that patients get the best medicine at the best price. Giving a license to one applicant over the other can result in poor medicine quality, supply shortages, price gouging, and a number of other issues. That’s why I don’t like license lotteries. These medical marijuana lawsuits only hurt the patients.

The licensing process in Massachusetts has been racked with issues, leading to multiple lawsuits against the State of Massachusetts. Another lawsuit was filed recently. Per Marijuana Business Daily:

The latest lawsuit, filed this week in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that licensing officials passed over three medical marijuana companies that received top marks in the application process, without providing an explanation.

In January, state health officials initially told the trio – Beacon Wellness Center Inc., JM Farm’s Patient Group and Mass Organic Therapy Inc. – that they needed to remove various executives who failed background checks.

In response, the companies ousted those executives. But the businesses still did not receive MMJ licenses, the suit contends.

For the sake of the patients in Massachusetts, I hope the litigation gets handled smoothly and swiftly. I hope that the right people are getting licenses in Massachusetts to operate medical marijuana dispensaries. If not, the program will be plagued by problems. Meanwhile patients will continue to suffer without the proper safe access to quality meds that they deserve.

09/10/2014 |

Many Massachusetts Colleges Have Banned Medical Marijuana


massachusetts medical marijuana 1 230x2301 photoAlthough medical marijuana has been legal in Massachusetts for nearly two years, many local colleges are putting out the message to students as the fall semester nears: You still can’t use it on campus, even if a doctor says it’s medicinal.

College administrators have reaffirmed policies banning the drug in all forms, and that includes for students who have a doctor’s recommendation. They say their hands are tied by federal regulations, which still classify marijuana as an illegal drug, and they worry that allowing cannabis use of any kind could lead to the loss of federal funding, including student financial aid.

“I’m scared I’m either going to go under-medicated and suffer physical consequences if I can’t use my medicine enough, or I’m going to face consequences from the school if I get caught,” said Max, an incoming Boston University freshman, who asked that his last name not be published for fear of being singled out by the college. He says he has certification from a Massachusetts doctor to use marijuana to treat gastrointestinal issues that cause significant weight loss and stomach pain.

Students caught using marijuana on campuses can face punishment ranging from a warning to expulsion.

But other medical marijuana patients and advocates say colleges are being overly cautious. Forbidding the use of a state-recognized, doctor-authorized medicine is unfair, unethical, and a detriment to students, faculty, and others who use the drug to treat ailments, they say.

“We would like to see schools recognize, as many states and millions and millions of individuals and doctors have done, that marijuana is in fact valid medicine for the patients that are using it, and treating it differently than other medications is harmful to students and faculty who have chosen to use medical marijuana,” said Betty Aldworth, director of Students for Sensile Drug Policy, a national student network pushing for an overhaul of drug laws.

The issue has gained attention locally as more formal patient certifications are set to become available in Massachusetts and as dispensaries are expected to open across the state within several months.

Some schools — including Boston University, Tufts University, and Amherst, Curry, Emerson, Hampshire, and Wheelock colleges — that ban medical marijuana on campus try to help students with certifications to find alternatives. One way is to allow the students to opt out of on-campus housing contracts and requirements so they can pursue treatment off-campus.

BU dean of students Kenneth Elmore said “a few” students with medical marijuana certifications have approached campus officials since the state voted to legalize medical use in Nov. 2012, asking whether the documentation allows them to use the drug on campus without repercussions. It does not, Elmore said. Those students are referred to campus health officials to privately discuss alternatives.

“We’d work with the student on that sort of thing,” he said.

But, Elmore added: “We don’t make a distinction between medical and recreational marijuana. We simply don’t allow marijuana on our campus. Federally, it is illegal, and smoking causes disruptions on campus.”

Advocates point out that medical marijuana can be consumed in other ways, including by vaporizing the drug, eating cannabis-infused foods and drinks, or even taking a pill containing marijuana’s active ingredient, THC.

The ban on cannabis use — medical or otherwise — also appears to be widespread at campuses across the other 22 states and Washington, D.C., where local laws permit patients with doctor-issued certifications to use the drug for treatment.

Thomas C. Burke Jr., 25, a student at Yale Divinity School who said he has a doctor’s certification to use the drug in Connecticut, says he has largely avoided problems by being discrete or by only using marijuana off campus.

Burke said his certification is to use the drug in Connecticut, where it became legal in 2012, to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder he has suffered since serving in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I try to make it as little of a distraction as possible and be as accommodating as I can to others,” said Burke, who supplements his use with cognitive therapy.

Still, colleges’ rules on medical marijuana cause uneasiness.

“For most veterans with PTSD, which is an anxiety disorder, the anxiety of having to worry about being penalized or seen as a criminal keeps them from medicating,” said Burke.

“We are not just doing drugs during the day, we are medicating ourselves, which allows us to be productive members of society.”

Thomas C. Burke Jr. said that he has avoided problems using medical marijuana by being discrete or by only using it off campus. Many colleges remind students the drug is banned.

While numerous Massachusetts colleges have affirmed their bans in student and employee conduct policies, some campuses — including Eastern Nazarene and Mount Holyoke colleges — say they are weighing whether to revise their policies.

“It is unclear what impact, if any, a change in policy would have on federal funding,” said Jeffrey Kirksey, vice president for student development and retention at Eastern Nazarene, in Quincy.

That lack of clarity stems, in part, from mixed messages from federal officials.

The Justice Department said in a memorandum last year that it focuses enforcement on the most serious marijuana-related violations, and it is “not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on seriously ill individuals, or on their individual caregivers.”

However, in 2011, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Education Department wrote a letter warning campuses that deviating from federal rules could put their federal funding at risk.

“The administration’s stance hasn’t changed since then,” drug control policy office spokeswoman Cameron Hardesty told the Globe last week.

Advocates, however, say it is unrealistic to believe the US government would cut off funding to colleges over the issue.

“I understand not wanting to risk millions of dollars in federal funding, but no college has ever lost federal funding for changing their drug or alcohol policies,”said Connor McKay, a 22-year-old Northeastern University senior and president of the campus chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. “Colleges could and should at least accommodate students who need to use it.”

09/07/2014 |

Can Medical Marijuana Stop The Opiate Epidemic In Massachusetts?


weed heroin photoNew research suggests that medical marijuana could be an option to help curb and even eliminate problems associated with the heroin epidemic currently plaguing the nation.

This research, published on the JAMA Internal Medicine website, shows that states that have enacted successful medical marijuana programs prior to 2010 have a 24.8-percent lower annual death rate from opioid overdoses than states where medical marijuana was illegal prior to 2010.

“In summary, although we found a lower mean annual rate of opioid analgesic mortality in states with medical cannabis laws, a direct causal link cannot be established,” wrote the authors – lead by Dr. Marcus A. Bachhuber at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center – in the study. “If the relationship between medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality is substantiated in further work, enactment of laws to allow for use of medical cannabis may be advocated as part of a comprehensive package of policies to reduce the population risk of opioid analgesics.”

The research that was published is not in anyway saying that heroin overdoses and medical marijuana use are linked, but it does raise a lot of interesting points about the role of opiates as a pain relief treatment option. According to the CDC, the percentage of patients who receive opiates for non-cancer pain has doubled over the past decade, which is why many are looking to alternative options to curb the heroin epidemic, as many heroin users begin their addiction though opiate prescriptions.

Better Option for Patients

The study certainly opens the eyes of some who may not have known the potential benefits of medical marijuana as a pain relieving substance, but according Matt Simon, the New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project, this is something that patients have been talking about for a long time now.

While not arguing that there is a small level and risk of addiction to marijuana, Simon says that there is nowhere near the risks that are presented when one is taking an opiate for pain relieve. Because of this, medical marijuana can present itself as a natural medication with the same upside for patients, lacking potential for addiction and death; according to Simon, he has never seen or heard of a marijuana overdose or death resulting from taking in too much of the drug.

“We have been hearing for a long time now from patients that medical marijuana is an effective treatment option for pain and can even help pull people away from dangerously addictive opiates,” said Simon. “There is no question that marijuana is less dangerous than opiates. Marijuana is also a much less addictive substance; some may become addicted but it isn’t to the levels and dependency of opiates.”

 More Studies Needed

While the study certainly shows that there could be a link between medical marijuana implementation and a reduction in opiate overdoses, the study fully admits that there is no direct correlation found between the two.

Because of this, Maryanne Frangules, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, says that more studies and research is needed in order to determine whether or not this link is factual. While it could certainly benefit reducing or even eliminating opiate addictions in the future, Frangules says that people should also use caution when looking at the study results.

“I find the study to be very interesting,” said Frangules. “I clearly want more information because after all, this is only one study. We are definitely concerned about young people’s use of medical marijuana so we want to make sure any changes made are to better public health. All I can say is that in both cases these are still mind-altering substances, something we don’t need anymore of in the state.”

09/07/2014 |

Government Confirms Report That Marijuana Can Prevent And Cure Some Cancers


canna care photoIn a recent report, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the Federal government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH), stated that marijuana “inhibited the survival of both estrogen receptor–positive and estrogen receptor–negative breast cancer cell lines.”

The same report showed marijuana slows or stops the growth of certain lung cancer cells and suggested that marijuana may provide “risk reduction and treatment of colorectal cancer.”

Referring to the NCI report, Patient Rights attorney Matthew Pappas said, “The Federal government’s continuing attack on people prescribed medical cannabis by their doctors is hypocritical considering the benefits reported by its own National Cancer Institute.”

Pappas represents patients in defending their right to reasonably obtain medical marijuana. The patients contend the Federal government and various municipalities are trying to prevent them from obtaining cannabis for medical purposes in direct contravention of state laws.

“Cities that ban dispensaries are denying patients the ability to obtain a medicine the Federal government’s National Institutes of Health says fights cancer and they’re doing it with the Obama Administration’s help.” Recently, the City of Los Angeles repealed its ban of medical marijuana collectives after Bill Rosendahl, a member of its city council diagnosed with cancer and prescribed medical marijuana said to fellow council members about the ban, “You want to kill me? You want to throw me under the bus?”

The NCI report also examined whether patients who smoke marijuana rather than ingesting it orally are exposed to a higher risk of lung and certain digestive system cancers. According to the government, 19 studies “failed to demonstrate statistically significant associations between marijuana inhalation and lung cancer.” The report also identified a separate study of 611 lung cancer patients that showed marijuana was “not associated with an increased risk of lung cancer or other upper aerodigestive tract cancers and found no positive associations with any cancer type.” In the area of prostate cancer, the NCI report was inconclusive and suggested further research was necessary. In its report, the National Cancer Institute also identified a “study of intratumoral injection of delta-9-THC in patients with recurrent glioblastoma” that showed tumor reduction in the test participants.

Despite the Federal government sanctioned and authorized NCI report, Pappas said Congress and the Obama Administration have continued to thwart marijuana research. In an announced effort to displace state medical marijuana laws, the Office of National Drug Control Policy described “medical” marijuana as a “myth” fueling “troubling misconceptions” in documents found on its website.

The Federal government appears to be focused on creating more chemical drugs, many of which are the subject of various attorney television commercials seeking out those adversely impacted by those drugs.

Pappas said both the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of National Drug Control Policy continue to assert marijuana lacks any medicinal value despite the research showing cannabis reduces certain cancer risks and inhibits the growth of tumor cells. He also commented that the Federal government’s anti-marijuana position contributes to and encourages prejudice and public misconception about the legitimate use of medical cannabis as treatment for seriously ill patients.

In addition to anti-cancer properties, separate research reported marijuana appears to have “profound nerve-protective and brain-enhancing properties that could potentially treat many neurodegenerative disorders.” In its report, the National Cancer Institute stated cannabis effectively treats insomnia and referenced a placebo-controlled study in cancer patients showing increased quality of sleep and relaxation in those treated with tetrahydrocannabinol, an active component in marijuana.

Responding to a White House statement that only a small percentage of patients prescribed medical cannabis under state laws use it to treat cancer, Pappas said “marijuana isn’t just for cancer or AIDS patients – it can also treat, for example, sleeplessness.” Although generally not a life threatening condition, Pappas referred to insomnia as a health issue regularly treated with prescription drugs zolpidem (brand name Ambien) and eszopiclone (brand name Lunesta).

According to their manufacturers’ websites, zolpidem and eszopiclone have been shown to cause severe side effects including aggressiveness, hallucinations, confusion, or suicidal thoughts. Pappas noted that, unlike those drugs, studies on insomnia similar to those reported by the National Cancer Institute show medical marijuana effectively treats insomnia at a far lower cost and with fewer side effects. Marijuana has also been prescribed for glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and a variety of other physical and mental conditions.

Addressing the White House website statement that medical marijuana should remain criminally illegal under federal law, Pappas said that “with every drug, the doctor must consider the benefits versus any possible side effects. In its 3000-plus year history of medicinal use, there has never been a known, confirmed death caused by overdose of marijuana. To suggest that prescription drugs known to have severe negative side effects are alright and that marijuana can only be used for cancer or AIDS is nonsensical. It demonstrates how the Federal government’s decision to usurp state sovereignty is harming people because burdening citizens with federal criminal records based on medical marijuana provided for under state law is simply wrong. To continue outlawing the use of a drug shown to have life-saving, anti-cancer benefits that has been used safely as a medication for thousands of years is irresponsible.”

09/06/2014 |
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