Got a connection?

Burning Questions
By VALERIE VANDE PANNE  |  February 8, 2013


I live in Boston. I'm trying to get some info on how I go about getting my medical card. I understand the law isn't completely ironed out yet. How difficult is it to obtain one? I broke my arm two times severely. I have two metal plates and about 20 screws holding my bones together. In the wintertime, it aches like hell, keeping me awake at night. I was never a big marijuana smoker, but from what I read, it might possibly help. I'm doing everything to try and not resort to painkillers. Any info you can give me would be extremely appreciated.

My sympathies for your pain. You are not alone in your quest for relief without using pharmaceutical painkillers.

You're right when you say the law isn't completely ironed out. However, I expect marijuana laws to change quite a bit in the coming years, and not just in Massachusetts.

At the present moment, you are able to "get a card" by going to your doctor and having him or her write you a certification stating your diagnoses and that — in his or her professional opinion — the benefits of medical marijuana outweigh the risks. This written certification functions as your "card," protecting you as a patient, until the Department of Public Health (DPH) has its regulations worked out.

It also enables you to possess or cultivate up to a 60-day supply of medical marijuana — although the exact amount is yet to be determined by DPH. If you don't want to grow your own, you can appoint a "caregiver" (the person who will grow and provide you with medical marijuana) by sending a copy of your certification along with your name, address (unless homeless), date of birth, and the same information for your caregiver, by certified mail with return receipt requested, to the DPH. The return receipt and photocopy of that info is the protection your caregiver needs under the law — again, until the DPH issues its regulations.

I use MJ for pain and have trouble finding a good, reliable source. Could you recommend or connect me to someone in Boston?

So sorry to hear you suffer from pain, and that you are having a difficult time finding a reliable source. This is a common complaint in states that do not have established medical-marijuana suppliers and dispensaries.

Once the DPH issues its regulations for treatment centers (better known as "dispensaries"), there should be at least one in the Greater Boston area that will be able to provide certified patients with medical marijuana, legally under state law.

Until that time, there are a number of organizations that are offering to make the patient-caregiver connections for a fee, including MassCann/NORML and Compassionate Caregivers of Massachusetts, an offshoot of Compassionate Caregivers of Maine.

Charles Wynott, founder and executive director of Piefer Patients Alliance in Maine, cautions that patients should be wary of any group asking for money or fees to connect caregivers and patients.

"First I'd do a Google search [to find a caregiver]," says Wynott. "It takes a little bit of reading, but you can weed out the people who just want money."

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