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Dispensaries in Massachusetts Accused of Forcing Low-Income Patients onto Waitlists

At least three of Massachusetts’ six medical cannabis dispensaries have placed low-income patients on waiting lists for discounted products resulting in months-long delays, according to a review of the program by the Boston Globe.  

The report is prompting action from the state Department of Public Health, who will now scrutinize dispensary hardship programs as part of their regular inspections. Under Massachusetts’ medical marijuana law dispensaries must provide discounts for anyone with a verified financial hardship without placing caps on the number.

The dispensaries in question claimed their financial hardship programs were full.

Scott Zoback, a spokesman for the Health Department said that any dispensary found violating the law “may be required to submit a plan of correction” but did not indicate whether violators would be fined.

New England Treatment Access (NETA), who operate dispensaries in Brookline and Northampton, have pledged to make changes to their program after being asked about their use of waiting lists by the Globe.

“We are immediately removing all patients from the waiting list, placing them in the hardship program, and restructuring our current hardship program in collaboration with the state,” the company said in a statement.

NETA said they had more than 100 patients enrolled in the hardship program at both of their locations, but did not say how many people were on waiting lists.

In Good Health, a Brockton dispensary, indicated they had no waiting list and offered low-income patients 10 to 20 percent discounts.

John Hillier, executive director of Central Ave Compassionate Care, declined to say whether his Ayer location used waitlists.

“Our focus is on building a financially stable operation that is able to serve all the registered patients dependent upon us, including those who do not qualify for the program,” he said in the report.

Alternative Therapies Group, in Salem, used a waitlist until May 2 – when state regulators determined the lists were not allowed. Executive Director Christopher Edwards said he had used the waitlist until regulators adopted a “slightly different legal interpretation.”              

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