Chapter 369 “An Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana” allows for the controlled use of medical marijuana in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Although students, staff, and faculty who legally obtain a medical marijuana “registration card” from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health are allowed to possess and consume certain quantities of marijuana, doing so is not permitted on Tufts University property or at university-sponsored events (either on or off campus).
Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug according to the Controlled Substances Act. Thus, the use, possession, cultivation, or sale of marijuana violates federal policy. Federal grants are subject to university compliance with the Drug Free Communities and Schools Act, and the Drug Free Workplace Act. The university is also subject to the Controlled Substances Act. This prohibits the university from allowing any form of marijuana use on campus.
The university will accommodate legally recognized Massachusetts medical marijuana users. Students who obtain a registration card from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health may submit a letter to the Dean of Student Affairs requesting to be released from their university housing and dining contract. In such situations students will be released from their contracts with no financial penalty. Any payments made to the university for dining services or housing facilities will be returned to the student in proportion to the remainder of their time on a university meal plan or in university residence halls.
What does the Massachusetts medical marijuana law do?
The law, approved in a ballot question by over 60% of voters in the Commonwealth, allows the regulated use of medical marijuana. It establishes a system for Registered Medical Dispensaries (RMDs) to distribute marijuana to qualified patients. Dispensaries will begin to open in 2014. In the first year there will be 35 dispensaries around the state with at least one, but no more than 5, in each county.
Patients suffering from chronic conditions (the law allows flexibility in defining these) can obtain a registration card by receiving a certification (not prescription) from a doctor with whom they have a “bona fide” relationship. This certification can then be presented to the Department of Public Health (DPH) who will decide whether or not to issue a registration card. The registration card allows the user to purchase certain amounts of marijuana at RMDs and to grow limited quantities in a secure location in their home. Registration cards must be renewed on an annual basis. RMDs and patients are both subject to annual fines for use and distribution. Public consumption and impaired driving are still not permitted under the law.
Why is Tufts prohibited from allowing medical marijuana use on campus despite state law that makes it legal?
First, the law allows exemptions for schools and employers. On these grounds alone, Tufts is not required to allow medical use. Secondly, the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act amendments of 1989 (amendments to the Higher Education Act) tie large portions of university funding to a drug-free environment. For example, according to 20 USC § 1011i institutions of higher education will lose federal funding for financial aid if they allow the use of illicit drugs on campus. Marijuana is considered an illicit drug (Schedule I according to the Controlled Substances Act).
Can any student or faculty member obtain a medical marijuana registration card?
No. Recipients of a Massachusetts medical marijuana registration card must prove that their primary state of residence is Massachusetts. They are required to present a Massachusetts driver’s license or other state issued identification card. Registration cards are void and subject to revocation if the patient is no longer a Massachusetts resident.
Can someone purchase medical marijuana in Massachusetts with an out of state medical marijuana card?
No. Patients must have a valid registration card issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH).
Will DPH issue medical marijuana registration cards for certifications from out of state physicians?
Per section 725.430 of the law, the physician’s ability to certify a patient for medical marijuana use is revoked if they have not voluntarily agreed to practice medicine in Massachusetts. DPH regulations state that a doctor must utilize the Massachusetts Prescription Monitoring Program to view the patient’s prescription history prior to issuing a certification for medical marijuana. Both of these indicate that the certifying physician must practice in Massachusetts.