Contact: Richard P. Gulla
Statement by MMS President Ronald Dunlap, M.D.:
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health today announces the list of licensees for medical marijuana dispensaries in the Commonwealth, bringing patients another step closer to using marijuana as “medicine.”
As the state opens this new chapter in public health, the Massachusetts Medical Society must remind patients of the Commonwealth that there is insufficient scientific information about the safety of marijuana when used for “medicinal” purposes. Patients should remember that marijuana lacks the rigorous testing of drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration; that claims for its effectiveness have not been scientifically proven; and, that it poses health risks of toxins and cognitive impairment, the last condition being especially risky for young patients.
Despite voter approval, despite the hard and good work of the DPH in developing regulations and overseeing the process of licensing, the Massachusetts model does not contain any provisions for dosage, administering the drug, or other basic elements that would be contained in a prescription for another medication that has gone through rigorous clinical trials.
We are further concerned about the growth of “certification centers,” dealing only with patients seeking marijuana. They appear to sidestep the DPH regulation of an “ongoing physician-patient relationship” in the general course of medical practice as a requirement for certification. Implications for occupational health and safety are other questions raised by marijuana use.
We are gratified and are supportive of the efforts that the Massachusetts DPH has made to direct the law and develop regulations that should minimize abuse and recreational use.
We are, however, treading into new territory in Massachusetts with medical marijuana, and it will be critical to oversee and monitor the work of dispensaries to ensure they act consistently within the law and regulations. We would not like to see them become the kind of retailers that have created the skepticism about and non-adherence to programs in other states such as California and Colorado.
Because this program directly affects the health of patients in Massachusetts, physicians will continue to watch its rollout carefully, to ensure that the focus remains on patient care and patient safety.
The Massachusetts Medical Society, with more than 24,000 physicians and student members, is dedicated to educating and advocating for the patients and physicians of Massachusetts. The Society, under the auspices of NEJM Group, publishes the New England Journal of Medicine, a leading global medical journal and web site, and NEJM Journal Watch alerts and publications covering 13 specialties. The Society is also a leader in continuing medical education for health care professionals throughout Massachusetts, conducting a variety of medical education programs for physicians and health care professionals. Founded in 1781, MMS is the oldest continuously operating medical society in the country.