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Cannabis Control Commission eliminates patient registration, renewal fees for medical marijuana

The Cannabis Control Commission announced Tuesday the elimination of patient registration and renewal fees beginning in November. EMILY ZABOWSKI/ DFP FILE

The Cannabis Control Commission announced Tuesday they will be eliminating the $50 registration and renewal for medical marijuana patients in Massachusetts’ Medical Use of Marijuana Program.

CCC made the policy change after receiving feedback from patients, evaluating financial impacts to the program and identifying its ability to offset lost revenue, according to a CCC press release.

Massachusetts’ Medical Use of Marijuana Program is a system that registers medical marijuana patients, caregivers and Registered Marijuana Dispensaries with the state of Massachusetts, according to the press release.

Discussion about possibly eliminating the fee began in April after the CCC received feedback during a regular meeting. CCC’s Executive Director Shawn Collins said during the April meeting that one of the most frequent complaints centered medical marijuana fees.

By far the most common feedback the commission received in previous regulatory periods as well as the public hearings that were held earlier this year was on patient fees and access to the Medical Use of Marijuana Program and System,” Collins said.

However, Collins said during the April meeting the CCC would face a loss of annual revenue if the registration and renewal fees were completely waived.

“There is a cost to processing these applications that is supported by the entire system’s fees” Collins said at the April meeting. “It should be considered that it would be a revenue loss in waiving them, roughly about two million dollars.”

David Torrisi, executive director of the Commonwealth Dispensary Association, said he fully supports the CCC’s decision to fully waive the registration fees.

The CDA is an organization that provides Massachusetts state-licensed marijuana providers with policy updates and acts as a liaison between CDA members and the CCC. 

However, Torrisi said while waiving the fees may benefit current members of the Medical Use of Marijuana Program, it’s hard to tell if the new policy will increase the number of Massachusetts residents who register with the state.  

“We embrace patients and look forward to serving them,” Torrisi said, “but if you look at the history of other states, a lot of folks will still use cannabis for medical purposes but just don’t want to register in the state.” 

Torrisi said privacy issues and employment concerns were some of the primary reasons medical marijuana users’ hesitate to enter the state registry.

Michael Layton, 36, of Fenway, said he does not think Massachusetts should charge an extra fee for medical marijuana users after legalizing recreational cannabis.

“It seems strange to design something that would require people to pay after you’ve already made it so that everybody can buy [marijuana for recreational purposes],” Layton said.

Nurse practitioner Christina Allcox, 39, of Fenway said she supports the elimination of the fee.  

“I think the fee should be eliminated so [medicinal cannabis] can be more easily accessible for everyone” Allcox said. “I don’t see the purpose of having it other than for bureaucratic gain.”  

Ji Choi, 20, of Mission Hill, said she thinks the fee should be eliminated to allow wider accessibility to medical marijuana.

“For some people, fifty dollars could be too much,” Choi said.  “I know cannabis is really helpful in the medical way and I think it is a really good choice to get rid of the fee.”

The waiver of the $50 fee will go into effect Nov. 1. A $10 fee to replace a registration card will remain in place.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Christina Allcox had prescribed medical marijuana to her patients. The article has been updated to reflect these changes.

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