Let Patients Grow: Hardship Medical Cannabis Cultivators In Mass Face Absurd Obstacles


Cultivation for medical cannabis patients has been, to date, something that anyone with a medical marijuana card has been able to do without a numerically defined plant count. Under a hardship provision in the law (that has never been enforced by the Department of Public Health), a medical cardholder can cultivate more than the limit that adult-use laws allow (six for a single person, with a maximum of a dozen per household).


The problem is, the DPH never wrote any regulations around hardship cultivation. Instead, officials issued a memo stating that anyone with a card could cultivate under hardship. This was done before Question 4 was anything but a dream; law enforcement railed against it and continued to bust people cultivating under the law. I personally know some folks who were subjects in these kinds of cases. Their grows were trashed; their houses and lives were turned upside down. They got the opportunity to help some lawyers make Porsche payments.


Then, Question 4 came along and allowed even more people to grow cannabis. Walpole Police Department Chief and noted prohibitionist John Carmichael must have had a throwdown scream-out-loud temper tantrum over that one. Meanwhile, Question 4 made it worse for hardship cultivators, as law enforcement started using the adult-use limits to trash medical grows, completely ignoring the still-in-effect DPH memo. Foes would take away everyone’s home grow rights, no matter what the reason for growing. Got cancer? Tough luck. Got epilepsy? Too bad, so sad. Got chronic pain? Shut up and go eat your opiates.


The Cannabis Control Commission is looking at something that would effectively end hardship cultivation for medical patients. You probably haven’t seen it, because mostly only nerds like me actually read the regulations, but there’s some interesting language in the newest set of cannabis regulations released this fall. There is a whole section on hardship cultivation for patients, and it isn’t pretty… 


You start off with a $100 license fee, annually. Yes, I said license. You have to submit a grow plan. You have to let someone from the Commonwealth inspect your grow space. You have to agree to inspections whenever the Commonwealth feels like making one (but hey, they give you notice, so it’s all right). Oh, and you get to let the police into your house any time they feel like maybe you’re selling weed.


Did I mention that Walpole Chief Carmichael is on the Cannabis Advisory Board and helped develop the language? Oh yeah. There’s that.


Hardship cultivation should be as simple as registering with the CCC. Since financial reasons will ultimately be the only qualifier left, a license fee is stupid. Also, trying to regulate a home grow like a licensed cultivation facility is stupid. These regulations seem to be designed to nullify medical hardship cultivation. In this way, prohibitionists can destroy medical hardship via unreasonable and impractical regulations. It puts the likes of Carmichael one step closer to his dream of eradicating all home grows.


What can you do, you ask? You can let the CCC know how you feel about it. You can drop them a line and let them know that they can’t regulate a home grow like it was a licensed commercial grow. Remind them that hardship cultivation isn’t a license type. Most of all, remind them that thousands of people rely on hardship cultivation for their medication. Remind them that the people voted, and the prohibitionists lost. Remind Carmichael that he is a law enforcement officer, not a lawmaker.


Peter C. Bernard is a medical cannabis patient, the president of the Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council, and a contributor to midnightmass.substack.com and The Young Jurks. You can listen to The Young Jurks on iTunes or wherever else podcasts are streamed. This article was produced with support from Midnight Mass and The Young Jurks, where your contributions are greatly appreciated and help us deliver more local coverage.