BOSTON (AP) — Medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts would be required to pay a yearly registration fee of $50,000 and most patients would pay $50 annually to the state to remain in the program under a fee structure proposed Friday by state health officials.
A law approved by voters last November allows patients with medical conditions including cancer, HIV and Parkinson's Disease to seek permission from their doctors to use marijuana. The law authorizes up to 35 dispensaries around the state that could begin to open late this year or early next.
"The program will be self-sustaining through fees on registered marijuana dispensaries and patients," said Cheryl Bartlett, acting commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, in a statement announcing the proposed fees.
The medical marijuana law is designed to be revenue neutral, meaning that the fees collected should be enough to offset the state's administrative costs in regulating the program.
Applicants for dispensaries would pay a $1,500 fee when they initially apply for a license, followed by a $30,000 fee if they reach the later phase of the licensing process. Both fees would be non-refundable.
Once a dispensary is licensed, it would be required to pay an annual $50,000 fee for a certificate of registration and renewal, along with $500 yearly registration fee for each of its agents.
Individuals who are qualified for medical marijuana would pay the $50 annual fee to remain in the program. Patients who are granted permission to cultivate marijuana at home because they are unable to get to a dispensary would be charged an additional $100 fee.
Patients can seek a waiver from the fees if they prove a financial hardship. There would be no fees charged to personal caregivers.
"The proposed patient registration fees are in line with other states and will be affordable," Bartlett said.
The state is not setting the price patients would have to pay for the marijuana itself, with the dispensaries being given discretion to set those prices.
A public hearing on the fee structure was scheduled for June 14.
Earlier this month, the state Public Health Council gave final approval to a wide range of other regulations covering medical marijuana.
The rules allow patients to receive a 60-day supply of 10 ounces of marijuana, though doctors could recommend that some acutely ill patients receive more.
The regulations require proof of a bona fide doctor-patient relationship before a doctor can recommend marijuana, and also require that dispensaries ensure the safety of the drug by testing for pesticides, mold and mildew.