Earlier this month, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot question that makes the Commonwealth the 18th state to legalize medical marijuana.
Beginning in 2013, patients with HIV, multiple sclerosis, hepatitis C, or other very serious and painful conditions can now obtain a card from the state permitting them to purchase and possess up-to a 60-day supply of marijuana.
The new law also means a new business to Framingham.
CannaMed of Boston has opened at 945 Concord St. It is a franchise of a California-based medical company. Framingham is its first location in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has been given oversight of implementing the rules of the new medical marijuana law, which takes effect in 2013.
A press spokesperson at the state's Health Department Thursday afternoon said he couldn't answer any questions about who can prescribe medical marijuana, how it can be prescribed, where the prescription can be filled or other questions related to the recent ballot question passage, as the health department's legal team is still reviewing the law and writing the new rules.
When Patch placed a call to CannaMed of Boston Thursday afternoon, I was told the company is booking appointments beginning Dec. 15.
A spokesperson for CannaMed of Boston said the company is a medical practice. He said patients would bring their medical records from their primary physicians to CannaMed's doctors. Doctors at CannaMed would evaluate the patient, review the records and them "determine if they qualify" for a recommendation for marijuana. The company can not and will not distribute the marijuana, he said.
It was unclear yesterday from the state's health department if it would be legal to write any marijuana recommendation in Massachusetts before 2013. (A marijuana prescription can't be written as a pharmacy could not fill it.)
It is also unknown if a recommendation written in Massachusetts could be filled out of state or via mail, as currently no locations have been established in the Commonwealth to distribute medical marijuana or fulfill a medical marijuana prescription yet.
The directory listing on Framingham Patch for CannaMed of Boston states it is "now scheduling appointments for patients with debilitating medical conditions. (If you don't qualify, you don't pay.) "
If approved, a patient would receive a medical marijuana ID card, a recommendation letter and then have to pay $199.
"Insurance does not cover this," said the spokesperson at CannaMed of Boston Thursday on the phone to Framingham Patch.
Neither Framingham Town Manager Bob Halpin nor Framingham Selectmen Chair Charlie Sisitsky were aware of the new business until Framingham Patch contacted them Thursday afternoon. Halpin said he would instruct the building inspector to visit the business.
Halpin said it was his understanding that no medical marijuana business could begin operating in the state until the state's health department issued rules and regulations.
He said the Massachusetts Municipal Association estimated those rules & regulations may come in April, but the Association was recommending that everything be delayed until July 1, 2013.
"I don't believe, from what I have read from the MMA, that a business can write a prescription," said Halpin.
Three legal experts contacted by Framingham Patch said as the law was written and passed by the voters, it was their opinion that no medical marijuana could be prescribed or distributed until at least January 1, 2013, with or without regulations.
On the CannaMed website for Thousand Oaks in California it states: "CannaMed in Thousand Oaks is our corporate office location and where CannaMed originally found a need to provide Medical Marijuana cards to the seriously ill patients of Thousand Oaks. Though we opened this location it wasn't the easiest task. The City of Thousand Oaks made many attempts to close CannaMed of Thousand Oaks down because the City didn't know the difference between a Medical Marijuana doctors office and a medical marijuana dispensary. Ultimately they did not want a pot shop in the City of Thousand Oaks which we have nothing to do with. We fought long and hard to be able to provide the best doctors available to you right here in the Conejo Valley. We have been through raids and arrests on false accusations and have always come out on top. Why? Because CannaMed does everything by the book 100% of the time. We have not had any issues with the City for a very long time now and plan on it being that way for years to come. We are the most respected name in the Medical Marijuana industry because of our attention to detail through out the patient evaluation process. Also at CannaMed you will see a licensed physician in person, not a PA or medical assistant."
Halpin informed Framingham Selectmen earlier this week he had organized an informal working group that includes the police chief, the Board of the Health and the Framingham Planning Board to discuss how the town should approach the issue of medical marijuana dispensaries. He said he also planned to inform this committee of the new business in town.
Halpin told Selectmen Tuesday night he hoped for Framingham to be "out in front" and ready to recommend local regulations or zoning changes to Town Meeting, if needed, once the rules and regulations are available.
Editor's Note: Report updated to explain that the medical practice cannot write a prescription for marijuana but woul write a recommendation for marijuana. A prescription can not be written as it could not be filled by a pharmacy. A recommendation for medical marijuana falls under the new law that passed, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.