Medical and recreational pot industries evolving

  • In this Feb. 17, 2016 photo, plants grow at the home of Jeremy Nickle, in his backyard in Honolulu, Hawaii. Nickel, who owns Hawaiian Holy Smokes and is applying for a dispensary, grows a variety of strains and has a medical marijuana card. Those wanting to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii face unique obstacles in a state of islands separated by federal waters. (AP Photo/Marina Riker) Marina Riker

State House News Service
Thursday, May 18, 2017

The broader legalization of marijuana and the upcoming start of retail sales could lead to an evolution of the state’s medical marijuana program, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said Thursday.

Four years after approving medicinal marijuana at the ballot, voters in November backed a referendum legalizing the use and possession of marijuana by people 21 and older, and sales are set to begin next year.

The ballot question kept medical use of marijuana, which is overseen by the Department of Public Health, separate from the retail structure it created. It gave Treasurer Deborah Goldberg authority over the new retail industry, a setup lawmakers may modify under legislation that’s being developed.

Sudders said in a Boston Herald Radio interview that legalization could have impacts on medical marijuana, potentially by driving down prices, and that Massachusetts should look to states that have already implemented retail sales.

“I think we’re going to evolve,” she said. “I think as recreational marijuana is implemented in Massachusetts, I think that will raise questions about is there a need for bringing them together [or] keeping them separate.”

Eleven registered dispensaries in Massachusetts are currently providing patients with medical marijuana.

The ballot law specifies that state regulators cannot “prohibit a medical marijuana treatment center and an experienced marijuana establishment operator from operating a medical marijuana treatment center and a marijuana establishment at a shared location.”

Under current law, if regulations governing retail sales are not promulgated by July 1, 2018, licensed medical marijuana companies would automatically be become eligible to sell marijuana to anyone 21 or older.The Legislature’s new Marijuana Policy Committee plans to recommend changes to the law by next month.