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Massachusetts Proposes New Fee for Marijuana Dispensaries

Update Date: May 25, 2013 01:35 PM EDT

Although medicinal marijuana is technically illegal in the federal court, several states have legalized this drug for medical purposes. In Massachusetts, medicinal marijuana was first approved in November of last year. This law allows people with cancer, HIV and Parkinson's disease to ask for a marijuana prescription, which would be provided if their primary care physicians believe that this form of medication is necessary. Now that the business for medicinal marijuana is slowly growing and could arguably be very profitable, the state has announced that it plans on incorporating fees for medical marijuana dispensaries and the patients who use them.

The proposal, created by the state's health officials, would require medical marijuana dispensaries to pay an annual registration fee of $50,000. Many of the patients receiving medical marijuana would have to pay an annual fee of $50. Those who cannot physically go to the dispensaries will have to pay a $100 program fee, which would allow them to grow medicinal marijuana at home. This fee, sort of like a membership fee, would allow the patients to remain in the medicinal marijuana program. Currently, there are roughly 35 dispensaries that could open as early as the end of this year. If the fee is approved, the state will make a significant amount of money.

The health officials state that these fees need to exist so that the state would have enough funds to help with the administration and regulation of this new program. The officials outlined the process and the fees that would be required at each step. The first fee will be an applicant fee of $1,500. If the applicant qualifies and moves on to the later phases of the licensing process, there will be a $30,000 fee. These fees will not be refundable. After the license is granted, the dispensaries will have an annual fee of $50,000, which includes a certificate of registration and renewal. On top of that, the officials stated that there would be an additional yearly $500 registration fee for each agent in the dispensaries.

"The program will be self-sustaining through fees on registered marijuana dispensaries and patients," explained Cheryl Bartlett, the acting commissioner of the state Department of Public health. The money will also be used to hire and train administrative staff and inspectors to supervise this new industry.

Placing fees on medical marijuana dispensaries is not a new idea. In Arizona, the dispensaries are required to pay an initial $5,000 for registration and then $1,000 for renewals. The patient fees in Arizona are currently $150.

These fees will be discussed at a public hearing on June 14. The fees do not include the actual prices of the medicinal marijuana, which the dispensaries will set on their own. 

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