Currently, he will not speak with you if you waltz in and tell him you want to do something illegal — and until January 1, 2013, medical marijuana is still illegal.
"Once people come in with their cards in hand, then we are happy to discuss with them how to do medical marijuana in their home, or in a dispensary situation," he says. "And please, don't walk in and start spewing that you want to grow a bunch of weed."
If you want to open your own medical- marijuana treatment center, it's important to note that Massachusetts's initiative requires treatment centers to be set up as nonprofits. And the initiative provides only the barest outline of how to open a treatment center, how those centers can obtain their medical marijuana, and how patients and products will be regulated. Those details are left to the Department of Public Health to figure out — and it's unlikely the DPH will provide the answers to the most pressing questions before May 1.
DPH then has until the end of 2013 to issue licenses to treatment centers, which, at this time, as dictated by the initiative, will be permitted to sell not only marijuana, but also medibles (medicinal cannabis foods), tinctures, and oils (provided they follow all other state and local ordinances).
"What is next," says lawyer Michael Cutler, "is the gearing up of the regulatory process for defining how wholesale cultivation and distribution will operate and how the licensing will operate."
"[DPH] has a lot on their plate right now," he says, referring to both the drug-crime-lab scandal and the pharmaceutical-lab meningitis scandal. "But there are plenty of examples of how to do it, between Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut."
DPH regulators will more than likely refer to neighboring states, like Maine, to develop our regulations, says Cutler. They will also probably adapt some regulations that are becoming common across the country, such as regulations that require dispensaries to not be located within a specific distance from a school or a park.
Joshua Krefetz, attorney with Krefetz & Seed in Allston, says he doesn't expect medical marijuana to displace black-market sales, in part because the costs of medical pot will be driven higher by the cost of opening and maintaining a treatment center.
"Operating a dispensary or a supply operation requires a big capital outlay," he says, pointing out that owners will need to follow all DPH regulations, yet to be determined, as well as hire staff, install security systems, obtain leases, and purchase insurance.
And since there is no legal market in marijuana farming, dispensaries are not only retail outlets — they're also expected to shoulder the costs and risks of being medical-marijuana manufacturers.
"Pfizer doesn't work as a nonprofit," Krefetz adds. "Why does Joe Medical Marijuana have to? If you want to encourage quality businesspeople and encourage legitimate industry, you need to allow people to make money."
When the initiative goes into effect on January 1, the DPH has 120 days to write the regulations governing how medical marijuana will actually function here, in practice. The initiative requires DPH to develop, among other things, a "registration card," which will probably be similar to what other states have, and issue them to qualified patients. For example, Rhode Island issues a wallet-sized card with the patient's picture, name, and ID number.