As of February 1st, 2015, medical marijuana patients in Massachusetts will no longer be able to use paper/written certificates from their doctors to obtain their medication, as they have until now. Massachusetts is rolling out a mandatory registration system for medical marijuana patients and their caregivers. Patients will have until January 1, 2015 to register.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has launched “The Medical Use of Marijuana Online System” (“MMJ Online”), which is now available for qualifying patients to register for purchase and possession of marijuana for medical purposes. For those without internet access or those who prefer, a “more lengthy” paper application is also available.
Written certificates will no longer be accepted. Instead, patients must make an appointment with their qualified health care provider to begin the registration process. If, after an evaluation, the physician determines that the patient is qualified for the medical use of marijuana, he or she will issue the patient a registration number. This registration number is required to register in the MMJ Online system.
Patients will also need a valid form of identification, such as a scanned copy of a Massachusetts-issued driver’s license, a Massachusetts photo ID card, a US passport plus proof of residence, or US military ID plus proof of residence. Patients will also need a digital photograph of themselves, with requirements similar to those for passport photos. There is a $50 fee to complete the registration. Patients may apply for a registration fee waiver with proof of certified financial hardship.
If approved by the program, the patient will receive an e-mail with a temporary Medical Use of Marijuana Program ID card, which can be printed out at home and used immediately. The DPH will be mailing out permanent plastic ID cards “at a later date.”
Although Massachusetts voters approved medical marijuana in 2012, little progress has been made so far to provide safe access to marijuana. Under the voter-approved law, as many as 35 dispensaries are allowed, but none have reached final approval. The process is a lengthy and complicated one. Two years after the program was approved, only eleven dispensaries are still in contention.
Medical marijuana patients and advocates are – and have been – disappointed and angry about the delay in licensing dispensaries.
A direct action protest of the DPH is being planned for Tuesday, October 14th at 11:00 am.
“It is unacceptable for the state to continue to disregard patient need and to force patients to suffer because of politics and incompetence,” organizers of the protest said.
The state’s medical marijuana program had been expected to be operational this past spring.
“Patients are still forced to access dangerous black markets for medicine,” organizers say on a Facebook page promoting the event. “This is unacceptable and we will no longer stand for it.”