Until the state starts issuing similar cards, patients in Massachusetts will have to furnish what amounts to a doctor's note — "written certification," signed by their doctor, attesting to their medical condition and the potential benefits of medical marijuana. The certification, which must be dated after January 1, 2013, must be sent, certified mail with return receipt, to the Department of Public Health.
You, the patient, must also include your name, your address (unless you're homeless, the statute specifies), and your date of birth, as well as the name, address, and date of birth of your "personal caregiver," if you're unable to administer or grow your own marijuana. Just to be safe, you may even want to include a cover letter to DPH specifying all of this information in an orderly manner. And you'd be wise to keep a copy, with the return receipt — if you run into law enforcement, this will serve as your "card" until DPH starts issuing their own. It's your pass to have a 60-day supply of the weed, for medicinal purposes only.
Remember: possessing up to an ounce of marijuana is decriminalized in Massachusetts, so you do not need a card or a certification from a doctor to have a bit of weed (if you don't mind getting a ticket). Just don't have that ounce in 25 different little baggies — in which case you run the risk of a trafficking beef.
Marijuana activists, naturally, are pretty fired up.
"Legalization is next," says Michael Crawford, a/k/a "Mike Cann," producer and radio host of UNRegular Radio's Two Hot Heads: Where Activism Happens. "We wanna see that. That helps patients too. The black market is five times as big as the medical, so we wanna address that with legalization. . . . I don't want to see anyone arrested for cannabis. It's a non-toxic." Additionally, says Crawford, "We wanna take the marijuana trade outta the high school."
Crawford says activists are looking at 2016 for a legalization initiative, unless something dramatic happens at the federal level.
This election saw non-binding public-policy questions on the topic of legalization run on the local level in various districts of Massachusetts. According to lawyer Steven Epstein, the idea of taxing and regulating marijuana, in the same way that alcohol is taxed and regulated, was supported by 72 percent of local-ballot voters. He also says that 54 percent of the voters supported the repeal of marijuana prohibition at a federal level.
"Voters want the state to get out of the way," Epstein says.
Crawford describes these local ballot questions as similar to "when a rock band puts out a demo first to see if the fans like it."
Right now, though, we have medical marijuana on the books, and the Department of Public Health is tasked with implementing it.
>> READ: The FAQs: Marijuana dispensaries <<
They are not prepared to discuss details, referring the Phoenix only to their publicly issued statement from the interim commissioner, Dr. Lauren Smith: "The department will work closely with health care and public safety officials to develop smart and balanced policies and procedures over the coming months."
So pretty much everything we've outlined in this article is subject to change — as soon as the DPH writes the rules that will govern the state's medical-marijuana economy.