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Massachusetts to Implement Medical Marijuana Law


February 1997

Regulations to implement a recently enacted law allowing for the medical use of marijuana were proposed on January 21 by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Richard A. Knox, "Mass. Offers Rules Today on Marijuana as Medicine," Boston Globe, January 21, 1997, p. A1; "Battle Over Medical Marijuana Shifts to Other Parts of the U.S.," Drug Detection Report, February 5, 1997, p. 1).

The new law, enacted in August 1996, authorizes the Department of Public Health to establish a certification program for patients who use marijuana for medical purposes. The state certificate would create "a prima facie defense to a charge of possession of marijuana." Applications for certification would be screened by a three-doctor panel appointed by Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner David Mulligan. "We shouldn't enforce the drug laws by making the ill patients suffer," Mulligan said. A 41-member task force is scheduled to review the proposed regulations. Governor William Weld (R) called the plan "a very good idea."

A second phase in setting up the new law calls for the development of a Massachusetts' research project to be submitted to the FDA for approval. The project would be set up to establish the effectiveness of medical marijuana and to persuade the federal government to release the necessary amounts of marijuana grown at their farms at the University of Mississippi. The government has refused to provide the drug for such state research programs since 1991. If the federal government refuses their request, state health officials said the state might consider growing its own marijuana for the research program. Governor Weld said that the marijuana should come from "an official source," but that he did not "care whether it came from a federal or state source (Richard A. Knox. "Officials Say State Could Grow Marijuana," Boston Globe, January 22, 1997, p. A1).

Contact Commissioner David Mulligan's office at (617) 624-5200. A copy of the proposed regulations can be obtained by contacting the NewsBriefs office.