Massachusetts Weighs State and Federal Marijuana Laws for Health Professionals

Massachusetts officials are struggling to figure out how the state’s new medical marijuana law will impact health care professionals. Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, health workers who use medical marijuana may endanger their licenses, according to WBUR.

Doctors who use medical marijuana could be at significant risk of violating their medical license, according to Bill Ryder of the Massachusetts Medical Society. The state license application asks whether they use an illegal drug. The state Board of Registration in Medicine, which reviews the applications, may be required to interpret “illegal drug” according to federal law, he noted. “So the board could require you to report that and then judge you on the basis of the fact that you may have violated federal law,” he said.

Panels that review mental health workers, dentists, nurses and other professions say they are waiting for the state Department of Public Health to issue regulations on medical marijuana before they determine whether to change board regulations or policy, the article notes.

Some health care unions say their members who use medical marijuana would not be in violation of their licenses, as long as they don’t work while under the influence of marijuana.

Shaleen Title of the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Association, a new industry group, said she hopes employers will respect the new state law. “It’s our hope that as long as the patient is privately using medical marijuana to treat an illness and it’s not interfering with their work, there’s no reason why employers would discriminate against them,” she said.

Police officers appear to be covered by the federal marijuana law. “Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether the state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition,” Donna Sellers, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, told WBUR.

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    Alan Wartenberg MD

    February 21, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    As far as I know, possession and/or use of marijuana is only a violation of Federal law when done on Federal land or in a Federal facility. Legality or illegality of possession is a State issue. Federal law does cover the cultivation and distribution/sale of marijuana, with an assumption that State borders are crossed by cultivation and sale of marijuana.

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