Can I use marijuana to treat an injury in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts voted to legalize marijuana for all forms of consumption and use this past election, but citizens are unsure how the law will be implemented or how it will affect them personally. The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act has already taken effect (one exception is the delay of the marijuana retail shops. The vote, which was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker, pushes back the opening of such stores from January 2018 to July of that year). One question that many have had is what will be allowed in terms of use to treat injuries.

What Does the Law Say?

The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act has a lot of stipulations contained within its 25 pages. There are a lot of arguments for and against it, but it’s best to see what the law actually says rather than get lost in the political posturing:

  • The biggest worry that opponents have about legalization is that children will have easier access to it, or be encouraged to use it through advertisement. However, the Act requires that packaging be child proof, that advertisements don’t encourage underage use and that possession is illegal on or near the grounds of a school.
  • Opponents have also said that it restricts a city’s ability to control the number of shops, and allows for retailers to set up near schools and daycares. Shops actually won’t be allowed within 500 feet of a school, and only 75 each of retailers, manufacturers and cultivators will be allowed statewide.
  • It has been proven by many independent studies that legalizing something does not lead to increased use. Opponents believe differently, especially when it comes to high school aged children. However, multiple surveys have shown that marijuana use has actually decreased slightly in Colorado since they made it legal.

Most laws come with their own setbacks or problems, and this one is no different. Law enforcement does not have any sort of breathalyzer capability to detect whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana as of yet. This law presents no changes to the illegality of getting behind the wheel while under the influence of any drug, and police in Massachusetts are allowed to consider other factors when determining whether someone might be high (although the state Supreme Court has ruled that odor alone does not justify a stop).

Can It Be Used To Treat An Injury?

Medical marijuana has been legal in Massachusetts since 2012, and under that law, only certain people qualified to receive a medical marijuana card. You had to be 18 or older, and if you were a minor you had to have recommendations from two licensed physicians who stated that you had a debilitating illness, which is defined as:

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Cancer or malignant tumor
  • Crohn’s
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson’s

Although these diseases generally aren’t life threatening, you could still qualify if you have chronic back pain, depression, insomnia, anorexia or anxiety. In terms of using it to treat an injury, it’s been shown that cannabis has very positive effects on a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Studies have shown that THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) has a positive effect on reducing the mortality rate of TBI and aids in the recovery process of patients older than 15 years of age. Marijuana has been clinically proven to inhibit cancer cell growth, combat nausea, influence appetite, improve joint mobility and relieve associated pain.

The new law makes no changes to the 2012 medical provision, and allows you to possess 1 ounce of marijuana on your person, 10 ounces in your home, and you can cultivate six plants for personal use (limit of 12 per household). Assuming you are 21 or older, you can still purchase as much as is allowed by your medical card. Marijuana is shown to be very beneficial for treating or assisting on the recovery from many types of injuries, but it’s still important to talk to your doctor about the possible negative side effects of marijuana use.

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