Patients in Massachusetts will no longer have to pay a $50 annual fee for a medical marijuana card under new state rules.

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission voted unanimously in favour of a new regulatory framework to govern the state’s marijuana trade. These rules will be made official once the Secretary of State promulgates them.

Campaign group Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance had been lobbying for the state to scrap the annual fee of $50 for a patient registration card. It argued that no other medicine comes with an annual fee and that it was unfair on low-income patients.

The Cannabis Control Commission has been working on revising the state’s medicinal and recreational cannabis rules since taking over the program from the Department of Public Health in December 2018.

It will increase the cost of licensing fees for large cultivators and retailers in order to make up the revenue shortfall created by scrapping the $50 fee.

“The new regulations bring expansions and improvements to the adult and medical use of marijuana programs that will bolster public health and safety, promote access to and participation in the industry, and support small businesses in our state,” said chairman Steven Hoffman.

The new regulations also permit 12 communities in Massachusetts to open cannabis cafés, while home deliveries of recreational marijuana are now legal too.

For the first two years, licenses for cannabis cafés and delivery-only firms can only go to small businesses or certified Economic Empowerment Priority Applicants, and Social Equity Program Participants. These are either being led by, employing, or benefiting members of communities hit hardest by high rates of drug arrests.

After two years, the commission may decide to extend the exclusivity period, or open up these licenses for anyone.

Delivery will only be permitted in municipalities in which retail sales are already permitted. Massachusetts voters legalized recreational cannabis in 2016, and sales finally began in November 2018, but individual municipalities have to decide on whether or not they want to participate.

Firms will be banned from delivering to hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, and dormitories for college students.

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