The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) held one of three listening sessions on February 14th in Boston regarding the implementation of a November, 2012 ballot measure approving medical marijuana. The meeting provided a forum for Massachusetts residents and stakeholders to provide input to the DPH concerning forthcoming medical marijuana regulations. The DPH will be accepting additional comments at the final meeting to be held on February 27th in Worcester. The comment period will be closing on February 28, 2013 and the DPH is expected to issue regulations on the implementation of medical marijuana by May 1, 2013.

The meeting in Boston was standing room only with a large wait to speak. As it was a listening session, the DPH panel did not ask questions or comment. Numerous patients and their doctors urged the DPH to expand the list of qualifying medical conditions beyond the current list of qualifying conditions. Concerned citizens and community groups also asked the DPH to adopt regulations concerning the advertising of medical marijuana.

Prospective dispensaries urged the DPH to adopt regulations regarding the operational requirements for a licensed dispensary. Some prospective dispensaries urged the DPH to look to other states such as Colorado for requirements such as chain of custody monitoring and security which would require dispensaries to keep careful track of their inventory and ensure quality control from “seed to patient.” Additional comments concerned anticipated inconsistencies between state and federal law.

The DPH listening sessions do not replace the requirement for formal hearings under the Massachusetts Administrative Procedure Act, codified as M.G.L. c. 30A, §1-17. The MA legislature delegates the power to agencies such as the DPH to promulgate rules and regulations. The notices for hearing will be published in the Massachusetts Register. Written comments will be accepted by the DPH until February 28, 2013.