The MPAA, Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, is calling us all to action:
We must call the Governor’s office and tell him to fix the caregiver system, launch the patient/caregiver registration system, and begin the process to license more dispensaries. No more politics before patients!
Please read all the information below before you place your call. Pay special attention to the first IMPORTANT TIP at the bottom of the page.
BACKGROUND: On September 22, 2014 MPAA advocates held a press conference at the State House, expressing frustration that nearly two years after voters approved the medical marijuana law, patients still do not have safe access to their medicine. Advocates then delivered a letter to the the Governor, outlining our demands. Read the letter here.
This was not our first attempt to produce movement on implementation of the medical marijuana law. For over a year after passage of the law, MPAA supported the administration by telling patients, the media, and legislators that it would take time for Patrick’s Department of Public Health (DPH) to license dispensaries to plant seeds. As part of that effort, we held a press conference to commend DPH for moving forward with selecting dispensaries at the end of January, 2014.
But then the delays began. In April, we again held a press conference, and delivered a letter to Governor Patrick, asking for his help. You can read that letter here.
By now it has become clear that the reason DPH is moving so slowly is that the administration is putting politics before patients.
Beyond our disappointment that no dispensaries have been authorized to plant seeds, we are also concerned about the small number of dispensaries that the administration plans to authorize. It is also inexcusable that DPH has not yet implemented the patient registration system that will protect patients and caregivers from arrest by law enforcement agencies that refuse to recognized written recommendations. (Although the law is clear that written recommendations provide protection from prosecution by state or local authorities, patients and caregivers have reported that some local law enforcement agencies are not honoring the written recommendations.)
Finally, MPAA and our supporters have been advocating for DPH to fix the caregiver system since the agency destroyed it through restrictive regulations in May, 2013. Despite bringing this up repeatedly to DPH, meeting directly with Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz, and writing directly to the Governor to ask him to fix the caregiver regulations, no changes have been made.
• Begin the process to license an additional 50 dispensaries. Today nine dispensaries are waiting to finish the inspection process, two are on hold, and DHP is considering issuing three more licenses. This will not be enough dispensaries to meet patient needs. We have thousands of pharmacies in the state, dispensing dangerous drugs like Oxycontin. But under your current plan, patients seeking a safer treatment will have to travel hours to access their medicine. Before you leave office, DPH must being the process to license additional dispensaries.
• Launch the patient/caregiver registration system immediately.
• Fix the caregiver regulation. Current regulations allow caregivers to grow medicine for only one patient. A patient seeking medical marijuana must appoint a caregiver and then wait three to four months for the medicine to grow before they have access. The regulation also prevents caregivers from offering medicine at a reasonable price. Caregiving is an essential part of the medical marijuana system now that there are no dispensaries, and it will remain crucial for patients facing financial hardship and those who do not live near dispensaries in the future. The regulation must be changed to allow caregivers to provide medicine for many patients, as they can in Rhode Island and Maine. This should be fixed immediately with emergency regulations.
• Register dispensaries now. Over eight months since the law mandated the state register dispensaries to operate, no final registrations have yet been issued. Make a commitment to take the approval process off hold for all 11 dispensaries that are waiting to finish the inspection process, and move forward aggressively so they can open their doors for patients before you leave office.
SAMPLE OUTLINE FOR YOUR CALL:
1. Introduction– I am calling to urge the Governor to fix the medical marijuana program before he leaves office. I want him to know that I support the Mass Patient Advocacy Alliance’s 4 point plan that calls for him to fix the caregiver system, begin the process to license 50 more dispensaries, launch the patient registration system, and allow the 11 dispensaries currently awaiting state approval to open.
(If that is too much of a mouthful for you, focus on one of our demands.)
2. Your story: What physical symptoms do you (or a family member or friend) use medical marijuana to address? What are the negative side effects of other drugs you have been prescribed?
3. Give an example of how access to medical marijuana improves (or could improve) your life or the life of your family member or friend.
4. Repeat your request that he fix the medical marijuana program before he leaves office.
Medical Marijuana Advocacy Dos and Don’ts:
Be polite: Be polite and respectful. This is very important as policy makers are dismissive of constituents who come across as angy or condescending. Show the governor that we are advocates that must be taken seriously by being rational, respectful, and polite.
Don’t say: weed, ganja, pot, legalize, smoke, get high
Do say: medical cannabis, medical marijuana, allow safe access, administer medicine, medicate
Don’t: compare medical marijuana to alcohol, talk about how it helps you drive, or talk about how marijuana should be legalized for everyone.
Do: compare medical marijuana to oxycontin and other pharmaceuticals, talk about how laws should be reformed to allow “for safe access for qualifying patients with their doctor’s recommendation.”
Don’t get off topic. Keep your message focused on safe access to medical marijuana. We aren’t talking about the history of medical marijuana, the “drug war,” or about recreational use of marijuana.
Be concise: Give a clear and concise description of your position on the issue. Keep it short and simple, don’t use complicated jargon that someone may not understand
Be clear and specific as to what relief from physical symptoms you get from medical cannabis: “It helps with my muscle spasticity” or “it helps relieve my nausea” are good examples of this; avoid general characterizations such as “it helps me feel better.”
If your primary care physician approves of your medical marijuana use, say so.
Learn more: http://www.compassionforpatients.com