Medical marijuana patients in Massachusetts will no longer have to pay annual registration or renewal fees starting in November, a long-sought change by patients who have called the fees a barrier to access.
The elimination of the $50 annual fee was unanimously approved by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission during its recent review of the medical use of marijuana regulations. The cannabis commissioners heard from patients about the impact of the fee — and also weighed whether the state could offset lost revenue from getting rid of it — before voting to kill the charge.
“Over the course of the regulatory drafting process, the commission heard from many patients who described the annual registration fee as a barrier to care, and we continue to take their concerns very seriously,” commission chairman Steven Hoffman said in a statement.
Patients will still be required to pay a $10 fee if a replacement medical marijuana card is needed.
Nichole Snow, executive director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, applauded the decision, saying the removal of the fee was a “long time coming” with a lot of effort put in by patients and advocates.
“The fee was undue stress to receiving health care, and it was an obstruction,” she said. “What this really means is that patients are going to be treated equally, just like any other patient who is seeking out health care, and that is huge.”
Snow added that the $50 fee reinforced the stigma of using medical marijuana.
“It made us feel like it was a challenging hoop to go through in order to seek out medical marijuana as a health care option,” Snow said. “We felt outcasted and not like anyone else, and now we feel like we belong in the health care system.”