Dr. Bruce Bedrick, chief executive of Medbox Inc., said Massachusetts would be the first state with dominant control over all aspects of the medical marijuana industry. Medbox opened an office in Massachusetts soon after the ballot question was approved and offers consulting services and products to potential dispensary operators.
"Anyone who has the inclination to divert marijuana to the black market — it just won't be possible," under the proposed rules, Bedrick said.
The law doesn't require patients to get prescriptions but only written permission from doctors for medical marijuana. Doctors must certify patients for the program and patients must register through the state.
The decision not to add to the list of specified medical conditions already in the law was made so as not to inadvertently exclude other unusual or rare conditions, Smith explained. Instead, the rules provide further guidance to doctors in determining what constitutes a "debilitating" condition.
"This is a treatment that is understood to be used for people who have significant illness that substantially affects their lives, and is not something that would be used for minor symptoms," Smith said.
Dr. Richard Aghababian, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, praised state health officials for allowing physicians more judgment in determining what conditions might qualify for medical marijuana. The doctors group is wary of the new law, saying it would prefer more clinical research on the safety and effectiveness of marijuana as a medicine.
While the regulations could be finalized in May, Smith cautioned that it could be several more months before dispensaries are licensed and ready to open in Massachusetts. A fee structure for the marijuana has yet to be determined.
Attorney General Martha Coakley ruled recently that towns could not prohibit dispensaries from opening within their borders but could make them subject to zoning restrictions.
Draft medical marijuana regulations: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/legal/med-marijuana/med-marijuana-propose-reg.pdf