In October 2013, Barbara paid $150 to have a doctor certify her need for medical marijuana, plus $100 to register with the state Department of Consumer Protection.

This month, she will pay another $250, without having been able to buy the legally grown cannabis until this fall.

“When I first got (the registration card) last October, I was under the illusion that … (dispensaries) should be opening shortly,” said Barbara (not her real name), who has glaucoma and arthritis. “I was under the assumption that the dispensaries would be open and I paid to participate.”

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The medical marijuana program was approved by the General Assembly in 2012, but the growing facilities and dispensaries were not approved by Consumer Protection until this year and the product didn’t become available until September. The first growing facility to open was Theraplant in Watertown.

William Rubenstein, commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection, said the law called for early registrations and that having the card last year offered immunity from arrest to anyone possessing or using marijuana.

“Patients got an advantage out of that,” he said of registering early. “It was a compassionate judgment of the legislature. … By registering, (patients) got that immunity.

“We were very clear with patients,” Rubenstein said. “The supply would not be available until summer 2014. We kept both patients and the public advised.”

Rubenstein said he thought most patients decided not to register until this year, anticipating being able to buy marijuana from the state-approved dispensaries.

“They never told me that,” said Barbara of the legislative immunity. She said she hadn’t bought marijuana from unapproved sources. “I haven’t because I don’t like to buy anything illegal,” she said. “It was never explained that I could go buy illegal pot. I don’t even know where I could find it!”

Barbara plans to use medical …read more