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Medical marijuana consultation center CannaMed eyeing Needham, Newton and Brighton for possible offices

Posted by Evan Allen  December 3, 2012 03:05 PM

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Needham, Newton and Brighton could all see the arrival of physician’s offices that specialize in writing patient recommendations for medial marijuana use, if the opening of a Framingham CannaMed office in January meets with success, according to company representatives.

CannaMed is a California-based company, but it’s owned by doctors who hail from Boston, said Richard Tav, CannaMed Regional Manager – and with the legalization of medical marijuana, they are bringing their practice home.

“The physicians are Bostonians, they were born here and grew up here,” he said. “We really want to emphasize that, because what patients will see is, there are finally local doctors who want to help them without being scared, without being pressured, without feeling fear from the powers that be.”

The company is planning to open a medical marijuana evaluation center on Jan. 7 at 945 Concord Street in Framingham, said Tav, and depending on how that center does, will consider expanding into Needham, Newton and Brighton.

“There’s nothing concrete, yet,” said Tav, whose hometown is Needham and who grew up in Newton. “It really depends on Framingham. It takes a lot of time to put this together.”

CannaMed representatives had originally planned to open the Framingham office on Dec. 15, but decided to hold off for a few weeks to allow local officials to deal with the flood of questions from residents and media about how medical marijuana works, said spokeswoman Renee Nunez.

“It’s a very unfamiliar gray area, and it’s new to the state,” said Nunez.

Massachusetts voters passed a ballot question in November that legalized medical marijuana, which allows up to 35 medical marijuana dispensaries to open in the state beginning next year. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

CannaMed is not a dispensary – it is a medical marijuana consultation center. CannaMed physicians are board certified and trained in pain management, said Tav, and work with patients who have diagnosed medical conditions such as cancer, Crohn’s disease or multiple sclerosis, who want to use medical marijuana to help manage their symptoms.

The office in Framingham will charge $199 a year for each patient that it recommends for medical marijuana use based on a medical evaluation of the patient’s condition, said Tav.

CannaMed physicians do not diagnose illnesses, said Tav, and prospective patients must have medical records including their diagnosis and any treatment plans to see a physician at all. Physicians do not write ‘prescriptions’ for marijuana, he said, they write recommendations – and they cannot tell patients where or how to obtain marijuana, either.

“They’re making it seem like we’re coming to town and everyone can get a recommendation, and there are going to be drugs everywhere,” said Nunez. “All our patients, to even see a physician, have to have all their documents.”

Of the patients that walk into CannaMed offices requesting recommendations for medical marijuana, said Tav, about 20% get denied, either because they lack appropriate paperwork, have a medical or psychiatric conflict with marijuana, or because a physician believes they do not need medical marijuana.

CannaMed physicians have not yet spoken to officials in Needham, Newton or Brookline, said Tav, but he said that the company has received thousands of emails from the area that are supportive of the company moving in.

In Needham, officials said they are just beginning to grapple with how best to regulate medical marijuana use in town.

Officials have already drafted a bylaw to increase fines for using marijuana in public, but said they were not sure exactly what the town’s final medical marijuana policy would look like.

“I’m not going to predict what we’re going to do yet,” said Chair of the Board of Selectmen Jerry Wasserman. “We haven’t had the conversation. There could be zoning issues, there could be laws about public use on public land, as there is about drinking on public land. Those are some of the possibilities.”

Spokespeople for Newton and Brighton could not immediately be reached for comment.

Tav said that CannaMed is just focusing on opening its Framingham location right now, and will begin to assess within about three to six months whether demand calls for another office.

“Medical marijuana evaluation is about getting a patient legal, the first step for access to safe medicine," Tav said. "The most important thing is that I want people to understand that CannaMed is here to help.”

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.

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