The long wait for fully-legal cannabis will soon be over in Massachusetts. The first recreational dispensaries will be opening in 2018, in just a handful of months from now. With more buying freedom right around the corner, why should you bother with the process of getting a medical marijuana card? That's a good question. The reality is that medical cannabis is not going away anytime soon, so here’s why qualifying consumers still might want to consider getting registered for a medical cannabis card.
State legislators have spent the months since the vote to legalize recreational cannabis straightening out the details of the law. Details to hammer out include who will be allowed to sell cannabis, how it will be regulated, and how much taxes to tax it. Stores are now gearing up to open their doors. In July 2018, six years after Massachusetts legalized medical cannabis and nine years after decriminalizing cannabis possession, cannabis will be readily available to each of the Bay State’s 6.8 million residents.
1.) Slow Legislation
Although retail licenses will most likely start hitting stores in June (for sales starting in July), several more months could pass before recreational cannabis is available over-the-counter in your area. In fact, recreation sales were originally scheduled to begin in January 2018, but legislative delays pushed the start date back until July. On the other hand, a medical cannabis card can ensure unchanged access to the products and dispensaries current patients are accustomed to. For new patients, a medical card ensures access to cannabis at registered dispensaries for any qualifying condition within weeks of their application.
2.) Tax Exemption
If you need a lot of product to treat your condition, you can offset the annual cost of a medical card with the cheaper cost of each purchase. Recreational consumers could pay combined state and local tax rates of up to 20 percent, but patients will remain tax-exempt. The yearly savings for patients who shop a few times per week could add up to hundreds of dollars – or even thousands – and that’s without the potential for even higher taxes down the line.
3.) Possession Limits
As a patient aged 18 years or older, you can purchase (or grow, if approved) up to 10 ounces of flower every 60 days and possess up to 10 ounces at any time. Recreational users have to be 21 to purchase, possess, cultivate, and use cannabis. They can possess up to 10 ounces at home (if secured by a lock), but can only cultivate six plants at a time or purchase and possess one ounce at a time outside the home. A quick breakdown of the law is here.
4.) Simple Application Process
To prospective patients who are put off by the time investment of the medical marijuana program’s process: It just got shorter. Doctors can now offer telemedicine services online for follow-up visits, allowing patients to have their examination from home rather than wait in a clinic to renew. Meanwhile, authorized dispensaries (like Sira Naturals) are working on offering home delivery to patients anywhere in Massachusetts.
So, Should You Apply?
Massachusetts could establish even more incentives to ensure medical cards are worth keeping, like other states did after legalizing recreational cannabis. Nevada, for example, lowered application fees for first-time applicants and renewing cardholders, and California places no limit on how much cannabis patients can possess.
Whether Massachusetts follows their lead remains to be seen – but at least there are already significant benefits to becoming a new patient, and existing patients can rest assured knowing that cannabis is still available to use in a way they feel comfortable.