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Mass. consults Maine on testing medical marijuana

Massachusetts regulators plan to require medical marijuana dispensaries to test their products for contamination, including heavy metals and pesticides, but specialists say it is easier to mandate testing than to do it reliably. Few credible labs will test marijuana products for fear of losing federal government contracts.

Interim state health commissioner Dr. Lauren Smith told the Public Health Council Wednesday morning that her agency is talking with another state in the region that is “taking on testing” of marijuana -- to learn about its plans.

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After the meeting, Smith identified the state as Maine, but said it’s premature to say what Massachusetts might do regarding testing.

Many questions remained unanswered Wednesday morning after public health officials presented their draft rules for medical marijuana to the council, an appointed body of academics and health advocates. Among the questions was whether dispensaries would be required to carry liability insurance to protect patients.

Iyah Romm, special advisor to the state health commissioner, said the Department of Public Health is still working through many of the issues and hoped to have more details when the panel meets again May 8 for its scheduled final vote on the rules. If adopted, officials have said rules would go into effect by the end of May.

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Romm also said that, given the complexity of the issue, the department anticipated issuing “sub-regulatory” rules to further clarify policies after the final rules are adopted.

Regulators said they will schedule three public hearings on the draft regulations on April 19 in Plymouth, Boston, and Northampton. The public comment period will close on April 20, and any proposed changes will be presented to the council at the May 8 meeting.

Chelsea Conaboy of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Kay Lazar can be reached at klazar@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.
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