If you’re considering using marijuana for medical reasons, the state of Massachusetts has legalized medical marijuana use with a doctor’s recommendation.
Patients with this recommendation can obtain a medical card that allows them to shop in medical dispensaries, along with recreational dispensaries. Here is a brief, actionable guide on how to get a medical card in Boston, along with some benefits of the card.
The Legal Process & Reasons for Having a Medical Marijuana Card
Luckily for patients, Massachusetts has let the physicians determine whether or not your condition can be improved by cannabis.
According to the state, “Debilitating medical condition” means:
“Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician.”
This last section allows physicians the discretion to recommend medical marijuana for other conditions such as anxiety, PTSD, or arthritis. The first step in the process of obtaining a medical card is to speak with a licensed physician in Massachusetts who can review your medical history and discuss your options.
To shop in recreational stores, medical patients must be 18 years old. If the patient is younger than 18, they must be accompanied by a personal caregiver over the age of 21, with a patient registration card.
Benefits & Privileges of the Card
As a card-carrying medical patient, there are a few privileges that you’re granted that recreational customers cannot get. Card holders get different product offerings, tax exemptions, accessibility to select dispensaries, and the ability to apply for a hardship cultivation license. Plus, many states like Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Nevada have reciprocity programs that allow patients with valid medical cards in their home state to purchase and possess medicine while visiting. Medical patients have a different selection of products than recreational customers as each dispensary must manufacture and produce their own private label brands of cannabis per state law. Additionally, medical cannabis is exempt from the 10.75% marijuana excise tax that adult-use consumers must pay.
Your proximity to a medical dispensary is also a consideration. Medical cannabis has been legal in Massachusetts since it was voted on in late 2012, and there are 49 registered medical dispensaries in Massachusetts, compared to only 13 recreational dispensaries.
If you’re unable to leave your home or visit a dispensary on a regular basis, you can apply for a hardship cultivation license, which allows you to cultivate and possess as much cannabis as is deemed “sufficient” to maintain a 60-day supply.
This particular wording makes the possession limit for medical patients subjective to the individual, unlike standard medical and adult-use regulations, which restrict growth to six plants and possession to one ounce on your person and ten ounces in your residence.
Additionally, medical patients don’t need to wait in line. A medical patient will have a separate point of service with a reduced wait time to allow for consultations.
Do’s and Don’ts of Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana should be used responsibly, and violating Massachusetts law can have serious consequences. Here are some things you should and shouldn’t do with your medical card:
• Shop as a medical patient whenever possible.
The products that you are familiar with on the medical side may not be available recreationally, and will also be more expensive (they’re subject to the marijuana excise tax).
• Start slower.
Medical cannabis products vary in potency, compared to their recreational counterparts. This is especially true if you are utilizing medical reciprocity and shopping in a market that you aren’t familiar with. Learn how to identify how much cannabis is in a serving, and remember that you can always take more, but you can’t take less.
• Research cannabis products ahead of time.
Don’t wait until you step up to shop to ask what a vaporizer is. Take a few minutes in line or before heading to the dispensary to research options such as edibles, cannabis flower, concentrates (dabs), and vaporizers. Once you have a basic understanding, you’ll be able to ask specific questions that will allow your budtender to better assist you.
• Familiarize yourself with online menus.
Many dispensaries maintain online menus of their products. These menus give customers an idea of the different product offerings, potential benefits, and tailored cannabis experiences. The more you know before you walk through the door, the more likely you are to have a positive experience.
• Join a Dispensary’s Loyalty/Rewards Program.
If you have a favorite dispensary, it may pay off being to enroll in their loyalty program. Over the long term, you may save a considerable amount of money, and earn exclusive benefits.
• Share your gifting intentions.
While gifting is legal under Massachusetts law, shopping with the intention of providing for another person toes the line, and many dispensaries will kick you out if you mention that you’re buying for someone else.
Medical card holders receive tax exemptions, and must have qualifying conditions to purchase medical cannabis. Those without cards may still legally purchase at adult-use dispensaries.
• Don’t light up in public.
Cannabis consumption is still illegal in public. Cities like Boston have gone so far as to enact statutes that prohibit smoking or vaporizing cannabis in public areas and businesses.
• Don’t forget your cash.
The cannabis industry is largely cash-only, due to the current federal scheduling of cannabis, and banks’ fear of repercussions from handling “drug money.” Most stores have ATMs on site, but preparing in advance avoids ATM fees and the potential of not having enough cash on hand if the ATM is out.
• Don’t drive high.
Whether you’re a medical card holder or not, driving under the influence is still illegal. Some states, like Arizona, have implemented protections that require impairment to be proved, but Massachusetts has no accepted standard for THC impairment, nor a standard chemical testing device to determine cannabis intoxication. This means that impairment is subject to interpretation. When it comes to driving high, it’s better to play it safe.
Obtaining your medical card in Massachusetts involves two steps:
- Get a physician’s certification in writing that cannabis will help your condition. An order by the Cannabis Control Commission now allows doctors to offer initial patient certifications virtually, so you don’t even have to leave the house. Check out this comprehensive list of authorized physicians to recommend medical cannabis).
- Register with the state’s Medical Use of Marijuana Program.
- Your physician will provide you with a pin number that can be used to register with the medical program online, or through a mail-in paper registration process. You’ll also be required to present a valid form of ID (Driver’s license, ID Card, Passport, Military ID) and proof of Massachusetts residency, as well as a current photograph of yourself. If you complete the registration online, the state website will pull in the picture from your driver’s license so you won’t need a current photo. Once you have these items, submit your registration and $50 registration fee. You will be issued a temporary paper ID card that will expire four weeks after you register. You can use this while you wait for your plastic ID card in the mail (usually takes 1-2 weeks). Then just print out your card and bring it with you to the dispensary.
Private consultation rooms
Do you have questions about how to obtain a medical marijuana card in Boston? New patients can call ahead or reserve a time to meet privately if needed. Happy Valley has a private consultation room, to ensure your cannabis experience is aligned with your individual wants and needs.
Consult with Happy Valley to learn more about obtaining a medical card, subscribe to our newsletter for further updates.