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Jill Osborne is just one of many people who want to see some changes to Massachusetts’ medical marijuana caregiver program. She wants to be able to buy the plant to treat her eight-year-old daughter who suffers from epilepsy. Although it has been almost three years since the use of medical marijuana was legalized in the state, she still cannot access the type of marijuana her daughter needs. She says,

“There’s one dispensary with two products, neither of which is the one we’re looking for.”

Currently, there is not enough legal cannabis available to accommodate all of the patients in Massachusetts.

Steven Drury is more interested in seeing some of the discriminatory stigmas and sanctions removed. Drury currently suffers from ulcerative colitis and takes medical marijuana to treat his condition. He plans to return to work after his condition gets better but is unable to do so because he cannot pass a drug test.

These cases are just two examples of the problems that Massachusetts patients and caregivers are encountering in their quest to access and use medical marijuana to improve their conditions. Osborne, along with many other patients, recently attended a Joint Committee on Public Health hearing to learn more about a proposed bill that would expand the caregiver program and make modifications to Massachusetts’ medical marijuana law.

Currently, the state’s caregiver program allows caretakers to provide marijuana to one patient who is registered as a hardship case. But that stipulation is not a convenient or affordable option for caregivers to access or grow the type of marijuana they need for their patients. There are a wide variety of marijuana strains, many of which have not yet been investigated to determine their medical benefits.

The state’s medical marijuana law was passed by voters back in 2012. Since then, the state has only licensed and opened one dispensary, while 15 other dispensaries are still going through the licensing process. Since Governor Charlie Baker revised this process in June to speed it up, 96 more dispensaries have applied.

To alleviate some of the challenges that caregivers and patients are encountering under current medical marijuana and caregiver law, State Representative Frank Smizik, D-Brookline, is sponsoring Bill H. 2065. The bill is designed to protect medical marijuana patients and their caregivers from discrimination in housing, educational institutions, child custody hearings and employment.

The bill would also allow caregivers to grow marijuana for up to 10 patients, let out-of-state patients access cannabis in Massachusetts and offer parents and guardians who use medical marijuana protection against prosecution from the Department of Children and Families.

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