The Cannabis Connection

Voters said yes to medical marijuana in 2012, but two years later the system still isn’t functioning. This month, the first Boston marijuana exhibition aims to help get it going. By Valerie Vande Panne

Medical Marijuana Image via Doug Shutter / Shutterstock

Medical Marijuana Image via Doug Shutter / Shutterstock

When Massachusetts voters went to the polls in 2012, they approved temporary legislation requiring medical marijuana patients to find a caregiver—a person to grow their medical marijuana for them—until official dispensaries opened. Thus far, the state has approved precisely none.

Enter New England Cannabis Conventions, an event founded by DigBoston’s Jeff Lawrence and Marc Shepard that’s designed to help patients and entrepreneurs navigate the state’s labyrinthine marijuana regulations. In fact, there’s a lot to unpack, much of which doesn’t make sense, says convention organizer Mike Cann, an expert on the state’s marijuana-reform politics. After the referendum passed, he says, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health heaped on additional regulations demanding a 1:1 caregiver-to-patient ratio. “Can you imagine if a supermarket could only serve one customer?” Cann asks. “What kind of prices would that create?”

Cann claims the new laws have forced many patients onto the black market because they can’t afford to comply with the regulations. As a result, he says, many well-intentioned people may now be growing illegally. “Really, all DPH did was expand the black market and make the black market prices go down,” he says. “They made a lot of legal caregivers illegal.”

Cann also points out that to satisfy the regulations, the state would need to approve 50,000 cannabis-growing operations to match Massachusetts’ 50,000 medical marijuana patients.

Another snag: Caregivers are having trouble connecting to patients, Cann says. That’s been a serious problem for Cynthia Gedick, 43, whose four-year-old daughter has hippocampal malrotation, which causes potentially fatal seizures. Worried about the long-term effects of her daughter’s prescription drugs, Gedick wants to find a strain of cannabis that can help. “She can’t be on this medicine for her entire life,” Gedick says. “It causes liver damage…. When she’s older, what will happen?” People like Gedick hope that this month’s convention will give caregivers information they can use to help those most in need.

The New England Cannabis Convention will be held at the Castle at Park Plaza in Boston, 1/31–2/1,