By Andy Metzger
State House News Service
BOSTON -- With a recent profusion of medical marijuana somewhat limited by regulation, the "King of Pot" railed with megaphone on the doorstep of state regulators on Thursday.
"They want only dispensaries to be able to procure your medicine," said Michael Malta, a 51-year-old Tewksbury resident who goes by the name King of Pot. His voice rising to a roar, Malta said: "The money said make it a monopoly. If you had only one Stop 'n Shop in Boston and everybody was shopping there, wouldn't that be great? Well that's what they're trying to do with our medical-marijuana law and we're not going to take it. Bring back the grow, and bring back the caregivers."
Voters approved a 2012 ballot referendum that legalized marijuana when used with a doctor's recommendation, and spawned an informal network of personal caregivers to grow and supply marijuana to patients who have few legal means to obtain the substance before dispensaries open.
The Department of Public Health, tasked by the law with writing regulations for the new branch of medicine, limited caregivers to providing marijuana to only one patient, effectively stamping out the cottage industry.
In a statement, DPH spokeswoman Anne Roach said regulations "appropriately balance and respect patient needs, while ensuring safe communities,"
Marijuana activists said too much weight was given to law enforcement's concerns.
"We're talking about tens and tens of thousands of people. If you're going to try to service that population in any reasonable fashion, then you're going to have to have multiple patients per caregiver," said Bill Downing, of Reading.
Valerio Romano, an attorney who represents dispensaries, attended the protest and said the regulated approach DPH adopted, requiring dispensaries to both grow and retail marijuana, will be better for patients than the informal network of caregivers.
The protest on Washington Street attracted a little more than a dozen pickets. The push for looser rules on medical marijuana was only one of the steps some want to take to deregulate use of the drug.
"You're talking about marijuana, the most non-toxic plant out there," said Malta, who said he smokes "10 to 15 joints a day" and would "personally" like to see marijuana as free of regulation as agricultural produce, such as apples are today.
Malta also said the marijuana provided by caregivers would be cheaper than the product available at dispensaries.
Even Romano said he would support full legalization and speculated voters will have an opportunity to cast votes on that issue in 2016, which is the year of the next presidential election.
"That's going to be on the 2016 ballot, so we'll deal with that in 2016," said Romano.
The picketers carried signs saying "limiting caregivers to one patient is inhuman, unnecessary," and one sign holder who also supports full legalization pointed out that the printed-out signs had originally misspelled one of the words as "inhumaine."
"That's so fitting for a pot protest. They just spaced out on the spelling," the protester told the News Service.
Bay State voters decriminalized possession of less than one ounce of marijuana in a 2008 ballot referendum.
Helen Donnelly contributed reporting.