Medical marijuana patients to get home deliveries

Massachusetts patients are set to get home deliveries of medical marijuana this summer. Photo: FIle
Massachusetts patients are set to get home deliveries of medical marijuana this summer. Credit: Metro File Photo

Tens of thousands of patients are expected to quickly take advantage of medical marijuana being legalized in Massachusetts, where the first dispensaries are on pace to open this summer and provisional licensees are all expected to make home deliveries, according to the state official in charge of the program’s launch.

During a presentation to a rapt audience of mayors, selectmen and school officials Tuesday, Karen van Unen, executive director of the Department of Public Health’s medical marijuana program, said it has taken off like “rapid lightning” since voters last year passed a ballot initiative directing the state to embrace medical marijuana.

About 120,000 patients are expected to use medical marijuana over the program’s first two years, van Unen told local officials. She told the News Service after her presentation that the estimate is based on data from Colorado’s medical marijuana program.

For comparison’s sake, 120,000 people roughly equals the size of a large Massachusetts city, more than the population of Lowell but lower than Springfield’s.

“This is definitely a brave new world for Massachusetts,” said Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, whose city is scheduled to host a dispensary.

Driscoll said she appreciated the “serious-minded nature” of the state’s licensing process and hoped the department would make personnel available for one-on-one communication about local issues.

Van Unen, the former chief operating officer of a Dorchester public health program, said she was “absolutely delighted” with the process to date, calling it “multilayered” and “robust.”

Critics have knocked the licensing process as too secretive and raised questions about Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett’s relationship with William Delahunt, a former congressman who is part of a team that secured three licenses, as well as van Unen’s appointment late in the licensing process.

Republican Party officials last month ripped the DPH process and called on Gov. Deval Patrick, who has been coping with major administrative shortcomings in recent months, to hand over medical marijuana licensing to an independent commission. At the time, a state health and human services secretariat spokesman declined comment, saying the administration does not respond to the GOP.

While licensees are permitted to grow only enough marijuana to serve their patients, state rules allow patients to be served at any dispensary in the state.

“We really wanted to ensure that patients had choice,” said van Unen, who added that the state encouraged dispensaries to offer home delivery to patients, and all approved applicants plan to do so.

Dispensaries are allowed to grow marijuana at locations apart from their retail stores, she said.

State officials are setting up one-on-one meetings with each approved applicant to explain inspectional processes, security procedures, product testing policies and steps they need to comply with before receiving final certificates of registration. Provisional licensees are also being urged to connect with local officials and boards of health to work through zoning, permitting and issues surrounding expectations.

The voter law requires at least one dispensary in every county. Four counties — Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Berkshire and Franklin — do not currently have an approved provisional licensee, although eight applicants are in the running to serve patients in those areas.

On Friday, those eight applicants were invited by state officials to update their applications, with a focus placed on siting. Applicants have until early May to complete updates, van Unen said, and announcements about a second round of provisional licensees are expected in early June.

“That will be kind of the next wave,” said van Unen, who urged local officials in communities that may host dispensaries to have conversations with applicants about potential locations.

“It’s up to them and it’s obviously up to the municipalities in terms of the potential match,” van Unen said.

Middlesex County on Jan. 31 received the highest number of dispensary licenses, with one each in Lowell, Ayer, Newton and Cambridge.

Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

US military tried, but failed to rescue journalist…

The U.S. military earlier this year tried to rescue journalist James Foley and other American hostages held in Syria ,but failed to find the captives.

National

Fate of captured beluga whales in hands of…

A Georgia aquarium went to court on Wednesday seeking federal permission to bring 18 captured beluga whales to the United States from Russia.

Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

And then there were six. It was a big night on stage as the Top 6 got to dance with each other, All-star partners and perform a solo routine.

Going Out

5 things to do in NYC this weekend…

FILM Lebowski Fest Aug. 22-23, 8 p.m. Various locations, Manhattan $20-$30, www.lebowskifest.com The Dude abides — for 48 hours to celebrate the 1998 Coen brothers classic.…

Television

'Doctor Who' personality profile: the 4 Doctors

When the time comes for a new Doctor, there's always some anxiety over the big question: Who will he be? The series owes its longevity…

Television

Billy Crystal to commemorate late actor Robin Williams…

  Comedian Billy Crystal will pay tribute to late actor Robin Williams at television's Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 25, the show's organizers said on…

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

NFL

Jalen Saunders still unsure what caused car accident…

Jets rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since his car accident, but he didn't say a whole lot.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Wellbeing

Metabolic syndrome could have a sugar link

Scientists in St. Louis may have found another culprit in metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Uric acid is…

Wellbeing

Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…