, Salem, MA


February 15, 2013

State holds 'listening session' to discuss medical marijuana


Eric McCoy, of Boston, said he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 20 years ago and has used marijuana on almost a daily basis for the last 17 years. McCoy, who uses a wheelchair, said marijuana eases his muscle spasms and has helped him to be able to live without any assistance.

“It’s been a saving grace for me,” he said.

McCoy urged the department to allow people with multiple sclerosis to get hardship exceptions, which would allow them to grow marijuana themselves rather than requiring people with limited mobility to go to a dispensary.

“Without that, the medical marijuana, the medicine, will not be available to folks who are like me,” he said.

Others who testified said they were concerned that the approval of medical marijuana, combined with the state’s decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, will make young people believe smoking marijuana is acceptable.

“What we’ve seen since the decriminalization in 2008 is that the perception of harm and risk of marijuana has gone way down, for both youth and their parents,” said Jason Verhoosky, youth program director for DanversCares, a coalition that tries to prevent substance abuse.

“What we’re really trying to do is educate people — it’s still a drug, and it still causes harm,” he said.

John Carmichael Jr., deputy police chief in Walpole, urged health officials to make sure the 60-day supply of marijuana allowed under the law is “kept reasonable.” He also said identification cards for people who are entitled to get medical marijuana should have photos and other security features so no one else can use them. He said medical marijuana prescriptions need to be monitored carefully to stem abuse.

“It would be naive to think there is not going to be diversion,” he said.

About 100 people turned out for the hearing.

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