On Wednesday, Massachusetts health official held the first of four listening sessions to seek input from residents regarding the state’s new medical marijuana program. The meeting, held at the Worcester Public Library, drew a large crowd and was standing room only.
Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Lauren Smith explained of the program, “We are looking to balance how we approach this, the needs of the patients that are seeking relief with the protections and safety of the public that are not participating in the program.”
At the session, Dr. Smith said the department will listen to and acknowledge all of the concerns and questions raised by community members. She said, “We will listen and take copious notes as we go across the state at these listening sessions and we will determine how to incorporate that into regulations that we are developing.”
One of the meeting’s attendees was Dr. Karen Munkacy, who works in pain management and believes in marijuana use for the treatment of symptoms related to Parkinson’s and cancer. “Marijuana is the only thing that stops nausea and it also is the only anti-nausea medication that also increases appetite so for cancer patients it’s very helpful,” she said.
Others were in opposition to dispensaries and voiced their concerns. Community activist William Breault said, “It is becoming clearer as places in the country such as Los Angeles are closing their dispensaries. They have closed 600 of them and it’s because of what is happening in them and around them.” While Mr. Breault’s opinion may be valid, the information he shared demonstrates how the media and other outlets can form peoples’ opinions and scare them into being against medical marijuana.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health will continue to hold the listening sessions as they work toward developing a strong, safe medical marijuana system for patients and community members alike.