Bill to protect medical marijuana patients, caregivers scheduled for State House hearing

BOSTON — A bill designed to protect patients and caregivers involved in the state’s medical marijuana program will be the subject of a hearing before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health Tuesday.

House Bill 2065 would bar discrimination against medical marijuana patients and caregivers in the areas of housing, employment, school admissions and child custody hearings.

In registered “hardship” cases, it would also allow personal caregivers to cultivate marijuana for up to 10 patients, as opposed to the current limit of one. A year ago, the state sent letters to more than 1,300 patients, plus 17 caregivers, warning that state regulations prohibit any caregiver from selling marijuana to more than one patient.

“The bill acknowledges that the one-to-one ratio is not workable,” said a legislative aide to Rep. Frank I. Smizik, D-Brookline, on Monday. Smizik filed the measure along with 15 co-sponsors, including Amherst Democrat Ellen Story.

The bill would:

* Protect parents from sanctions by the Department of Children and Families solely for using medical marijuana as approved by their physician.

* Clarify that employees of hospice or nursing facilities may be caregivers for more than one patient, and that they don’t have to register with the state if they are merely helping a patient administer medicine.

* Modify the definition of “usable marijuana” to exclude fresh parts of the plant, such as stems and leaves. Currently, most qualified patients may possess a 60-day supply of cannabis, which is defined as 10 ounces.

* Add reciprocity to the law so patients visiting from other states may still have access to their medical marijuana.

* Allow dispensaries to sell seedlings, not just seeds, to patients who are cultivating.

* Make it easier for individuals under the age of 18 with a qualifying debilitating medical condition to become registered medical marijuana patients.

* Bar police from arresting patients or caregivers if they possess no more than a 60-day supply and present their registration card.

Smizik’s bill is supported by the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, the group which helped bring the successful 2012 medical cannabis ballot initiative to the voters.

The 2012 act allows a qualifying patient who suffers from a debilitating medical condition to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana if the patient has a certification from a Massachusetts licensed physician and is registered with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Mary Serreze can be reached at [email protected]

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