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February 15, 2013

State holds 'listening session' to discuss medical marijuana

BOSTON — Dozens of people, many with debilitating illnesses, asked Massachusetts health officials yesterday to allow doctors to decide what conditions should be treated with medical marijuana.

The Department of Public Health also heard from substance-abuse groups, youth counselors and police, who urged them to draft strict regulations as the state prepares to begin offering medical marijuana to people with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS and other serious health conditions.

The broad range of testimony came during the second of three “listening sessions” state health officials are holding this month as they work on regulations for the medical marijuana industry.

Voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana through a ballot question in November. Now, the department is charged with coming up with regulations on what medical conditions will be eligible, how marijuana dispensaries will be operated, what constitutes a 60-day supply of marijuana, how marijuana may be used in food products for medical purposes, who can receive a hardship registration so they can grow their own, and how dispensaries will be monitored.

Many of those who testified said they were concerned that certain ailments may not be deemed eligible for medical marijuana and urged health officials to leave that decision to doctors and their patients.

Scott Murphy, an Iraq War Army veteran who said he suffers from chronic pain, broke down in tears as he urged department officials to allow the use of medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder.

“As you might be aware, we are losing one soldier a day to suicide,” he said. “If medical marijuana can help one person with PTSD, I would hope you would consider that.”

Murphy said he gets his medical treatment through the U.S. Veterans Affairs hospital in Boston, and he is worried his doctor there may not be able to write him a prescription for marijuana, which is still illegal under federal law.

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