Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman said he believes existing regulations are adequate to protect patients’ supply of medical marijuana once the recreational industry opens.
But, Hoffman said of the regulations, “If they need to be adjusted, they will be adjusted.”
Patient advocates worry that there will be a shortage of marijuana for registered patients once recreational stores open.
In response to these concerns, the Cannabis Control Commission put in place guidelines that will require a store that sells both medical and recreational marijuana to set aside a portion of its inventory for the medical market.
“We’ve, I think, addressed this issue explicitly and to the best of our ability with the best judgment to try to address this issue,” Hoffman said.
The Republican/MassLive.com recently reported that the first 20 registered medical marijuana dispensaries approved for priority review by the Cannabis Control Commission for recreational licenses have not yet opened to sell medical marijuana. The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance worries that the companies will go straight into the recreational market and will not serve patients.
There is a lack of clarity in the law regarding whether medical dispensaries that are not yet open should be eligible for priority certification, which allows a company to apply earlier for a recreational license and get faster review.
Hoffman, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, defended the commission’s decision to grant priority certification to companies that have preliminary approval but have not opened dispensaries.
“We have used our general counsel to try to form an opinion based upon the ambiguity in the legislation,” Hoffman said.
Advocates for the industry say the decision will allow more marijuana stores to open more quickly, which will enhance access for everyone. But registered patients get certain benefits that are only available in a dispensary that is part of the state’s medical marijuana computer network – including tax-free marijuana, a financial hardship discount and access to higher doses.
Hoffman would not commit to requiring a registered marijuana dispensary that gets priority certification to serve medical patients.
“We’ll consider each of those applications if and when they come and make an informed decision based on the licensing process we articulated,” Hoffman said. “We’re going to make an individual decision on each license application we get, and I’m not going to get ahead of ourselves and say what applications we’re going to approve or not approve.”
Even if some stores decide not to connect to the medical system, Hoffman said medical supply will be available from existing dispensaries.