Massachusetts voters have approved the use of medical marijuana for people with debilitating medical conditions and a doctor's permission, Boston.com reports.
The vote, which passed 63 percent to 37 percent, makes Masachusetts the 18th state to legalize medical marijuana. New Hampshire is the only New England state that has not legalized medical marijuana in some form.
Opponents argued that passing the referendum would encourage and increase the recreational use of marijuana, especially among teenagers. However, members of the Committee for Compassionate Medicine said the vote was a huge win for patients who have long waited for legal access to the drug.
Under the new law, patients with multiple sclerosis, HIV, hepatitis C, or certain other conditions would be able to obtain a card issued by the state that allows them to purchase the drug and possess a 60-day supply. The law would eliminate state criminal and civil penalties for the use of medical marijuana by qualifying patients.
The patient may designate a personal caregiver who is at least 21 years old who can assist with their usage. Of course, that individual would not be able to consume the marijuana themselves. Both the patient and the caregiver would have to register with the Department of Public Health by submitting a physician's certification.
The DPH has about four months to write the rules that will fully implement the law within the framework that was outlined on the ballot. The DPH will also have to register at least one non-profit distribution center in each of Massachusetts' 14 counties. Up to 35 distribution centers will be allowed in 2013.