One sign held up high read "Thanks for nothing, Deval." Another said: "Do your job DPH." Below the signs, a crowd of 50 protesters on Tuesday gathered outside the Department of Public Health's downtown Boston headquarters to decry the slow implementation of a medical marijuana system two years after voters endorsed a ballot question sanctioning the idea.
"We have zero cannabis plants in the ground to serve the patients," said Mickey Martin, a medical marijuana activist. "It's unacceptable to make patients wait," he added, after the crowd chanted, "Two years, too late." Martin said even if a plant goes into the ground today, it will take another three months before it can be cultivated.
Jill Osborn, a 35-year-old from Georgetown, said in the two years since the vote, her daughter Haley has suffered 9,000 seizures due to refractory epilepsy. Medical marijuana would reduce the number of seizures, Osborn contended, as it has with similarly afflicted patients in Colorado, which legalized medical marijuana in 2000. "They're allowing her life to be in danger every day," she said of state public health officials.
During a radio appearance last week, Gov. Deval Patrick said his administration was seeking to balance the law's implementation with the proper vetting of applicants for medical marijuana dispensaries. In a statement Tuesday, state Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz said, “Providing safe patient access is a priority of the program, and we are proud that dispensaries are now in the final Inspection Phase prior to opening. Once dispensaries pass inspection and meet local requirements, they will be ready to start growing and preparing to open.
Some dispensaries have indicated they will be ready to do so by the end of this year. As part of our commitment to ensuring patient access across the Commonwealth, DPH is also currently reviewing applications for dispensaries in open counties.”
Medical marijuana supporters are using the Twitter hashtag #Unacceptable to echo their message and plan to protest outside state public health offices Tuesday to demand the immediate implementation of a nearly two-year-old law approved at the November 2012 ballot.
Gov. Deval Patrick said late last week that his administration was balancing the need to implement the law with the proper vetting of medical marijuana dispensary applicants. Patrick's vetting team has been the target of criticism from beyond the medical marijuana arena, with candidates in the race to succeed him faulting the executive branch for its handling of the voter law.
What the protesters claim
Saying patients are suffering needlessly, advocates on Tuesday plan to call on the administration to immediately open up the program and allow for patients to safely access medical marijuana through dispensaries, limit restrictions on hardship cultivation to allow more patients to grow their own safe medicine, and expedite dispensary applications waiting for approval while issuing permits in counties where the licensing process has so far lagged behind.
Patients and medical marijuana supporters on Tuesday plan an 11 a.m. protest rally and press conference at the state Department of Public Health headquarters in Boston followed by a march to the State House.
Two pot clinics on Cape Cod?
Meanwhile former Congressman William Delahunt is asking a court to force state regulators to give him coveted licenses to run medical marijuana dispensaries in Plymouth, Mashpee, and Taunton.
Regulators say they denied his bid because it would have diverted excessive revenues to a management company he's affiliated with and incorrectly suggested he had support from state Senate President Therese Murray.