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Massachusetts Judge Says Medical Cannabis Patients May Vape Despite Ban

A judge has ruled the state’s Department of Public Health didn’t have the authority to impose emergency regulations banning the sale of vaping products for medical cannabis.

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Massachusetts Judge Says Medical Cannabis Patients May Vape Despite Ban
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A judge in Massachusetts has lifted the ban on vaping products for medical marijuana patients, ruling Tuesday that the state went too far on the emergency regulations imposed a little more than a month ago.

“The longer the ban remains in effect, the more patients will face undesirable choices, including opioid use, black market purchases, or suffering severe pain,” Judge Douglas Wilkins of the Suffolk County, Mass. Superior Court wrote in the ruling.

Wilkins’ decision undoes a ban on all vaping products that was imposed in late September by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who declared a public health emergency in response to a nationwide outbreak of severe lung illnesses—some of which led to death—that were linked to e-cigarette devices.

The ban was supposed to last for four months, and it applied to both online and in-store retail of nicotine or cannabis vaping products.

“The purpose of this public health emergency is to temporarily pause all sales of vaping products so that we can work with our medical experts to identify what is making people sick and how to better regulate these products to protect the health of our residents,” Baker, a Republican, said in announcing the ban.

Vaping Ban Draws Opposition

The ban quickly drew a legal challenge from several vaping companies and an industry group; a handful of medical marijuana patients joined in the lawsuit.

Last month, Wilkins ruled that the four-month ban could remain in effect, but said that Baker and the state eschewed proper protocol in instituting the new policy. As such, the judge ordered the state to remedy the policy; Baker responded last week by filing the regulations with the secretary of state, saying at the time he was confident that he had satisfied Wilkins’ order.

“We believe that means that the ban will remain in place,” Baker said.

But on Tuesday, Wilkins told the state once again to pump the brakes, ruling that the state Department of Public Health had no authority to impose such a ban in the first place. Such authority, Wilkins said, falls under the purview of the Cannabis Control Commission.

The judge gave the commission a week to weigh the regulations, saying that in the absence of any additional action, stores will be free to resume the sale of vaping products to medical cannabis patients on November 12.

In his ruling, Wilkins cited testimony from a patient named Doug Luce, who said that the ban had caused his supplies to dwindle, forcing him to turn once again to opioids.

“His experience is likely representative of a significant number of medical marijuana patients,” the judge wrote.

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