Massachusetts law about prescription medication

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on prescription medication law, including medical marijuana.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.13, §§ 22-25 Board of registration in pharmacy


MGL c.94C Controlled substances act
MGL c.94D Controlled substances therapeutic research act (research into the use of medical marijuana)
MGL c.112:

MGL c.175H, § 3 Using prescription drug coupons

Massachusetts regulations

105 CMR 700 Implementation of the Controlled Substances Act (MGL c. 94C)

105 CMR 720 List of interchangeable drug products

105 CMR 721 Standards for approved prescription forms in Massachusetts

105 CMR 722 Dispensing procedures for pharmacists

105 CMR 724 Implementation of the Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act (MGL c. 94D)

247 CMR Board of Registration in Pharmacy

Federal laws and regulations

Federal laws

21 U.S.C. Chapter 9 Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (FD&C). U.S. Food and Drug Administration

42 U.S.C. § 1396o(e) Prohibition of denial of services on basis of individual’s inability to pay certain charges

If you are a Medicaid (MassHealth) recipient, a pharmacy may not refuse to give you your prescription because of an inability to pay

Federal regulations 

Title 21 CFR:

  • Chapter I: Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services
  • Chapter II: Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Justice: Parts 1300-1321 - Controlled Substances

General information

Drugged driving

Massachusetts laws 

MGL c.90, § 24 Drunk/drugged driving

Selected cases

Commonwealth v. Bishop, 78 Mass.App.Ct. 70 (2010), review denied 458 Mass. 1110
On the issue of involuntary intoxication, a judge should instruct the jury that a defendant is entitled to an acquittal if her intoxication was caused solely by her prescription medication, taken as prescribed, and she did not know or have reason to know of the possible effects of the drug on her driving abilities, but the jury can find the defendant guilty if they find that alcohol contributed to her intoxication.

Commonwealth v. Gerhardt, 477 Mass. 775 (2017)
"[T]here is as yet no scientific agreement on whether, and, if so, to what extent, [field sobriety] tests are indicative of marijuana intoxication...Neither a police officer nor a lay witness who has not been qualified as an expert may offer an opinion as to whether a driver was under the influence of marijuana." A police officer may testify, however, about his or her observations, including observations of the defendant's performance on requested behaviors.

Commonwealth v. Reynolds, 67 Mass.App.Ct. 215 (2006), review denied 447 Mass. 1112
Court correctly denied defendant's motion for required finding of not guilty of felony vehicular homicide where there was evidence on the essential element of intoxication that the defendant knew the consequences of taking the prescription drugs she consumed.

Print sources

Trying OUI cases in Massachusetts, MCLE, loose-leaf. Chapter 1: Trial Preparation, sections 1.6.5 - OUI of Prescription Drugs, and 1.6.6 - OUI of Alcohol and Prescription Drugs.

Massachusetts practice v. 12 (Motor vehicle law and practice), ThomsonWest, with supplement. Section 28:36 - Operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol--M.G.L.A. c.90, s.24

Drug liability

Federal rules

Federal rules of evidence, Rule 702. Supersedes Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993) in establishing the standard for admitting expert scientific testimony in a federal trial.

Selected cases

Cottam v. CVS Pharmacy, 436 Mass. 316 (2002)
Court described the "learned intermediary doctrine" wherein a physician acts as a "learned intermediary" between the drug manufacturer or distributor and the consuming patient. As a result, a pharmacy has the duty only to fill the prescription correctly. Only a physician, not a pharmacy or a drug manufacturer, has a duty to warn a customer about a drug's side effects. A pharmacy which voluntarily assumes the duty to warn, however, such as by providing a list of a drug's side effects, must exercise reasonable care. In addition, a pharmacy may have a duty to warn if it has specific knowledge of increased danger to a particular customer, such as filling 2 prescriptions which adversely interact with each other. See, for example, Brienze v. Casserly, 17 Mass.L.Rep. 214 (2003): Court held that the CVS pharmacist had a duty to warn the plaintiff that taking Ciproflaxin and Theophylline together could potentially result in adverse effects.

Commonwealth v. Lanigan, 419 Mass. 15 (1994)
Massachusetts accepted the basic reasoning of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993), concerning admissibility of scientific evidence (now in Rule 702)

Rafferty v. Merck & Co., 479 Mass. 141 (2018)
Case discusses the liability of a manufacturer of a brand-name drug for injuries caused by an inadequate warning label on a generic version of the drug. "Applying general principles of tort law and as a matter of public policy, this court concluded that a brand-name drug manufacturer that controls the contents of the warning label on a generic drug, as required by Federal law, owes a duty to consumers of that generic drug not to act in reckless disregard of an unreasonable risk of death or grave bodily injury."

Reckis v. Johnson & Johnson, 471 Mass. 272 (2015).
Failure to warn case involving children's Motrin. Court ruled that damages in excess of $50 million were not excessive.

Web sources

Product liability claims involving pharmaceutical drugs.
If you have been injured by a pharmaceutical drug you used, you may have a defective products claim. Pharmaceutical-drug-based product liability claims are similar to other defective product claims, but pharmaceutical-related injury claims have a number of special features, which are discussed below.

Print sources

Drug product liability. Matthew Bender, loose-leaf

Massachusetts practice v. 10A (Procedural forms annotated), ThomsonWest, with supplement. Section 43:12 - Action against pharmacist - Negligent prescription; Section 43:24 - Action against psychiatrist - Negligent prescription of drugs

Massachusetts practice v. 51 (Professional malpractice), ThomsonWest, with supplement. Section 12.14 - Pharmacists; Section 13.2 - The learned intermediary doctrine

Massachusetts practice v. 52 (The law of chapter 93A), ThomsonWest, with supplement Section 9.29 - Torts --Pharmacist malpractice, pharmacies, and pharmaceutical companies

Physicians' desk reference (PDR). Thomson PDR

PDR Guide to drug interactions, side effects, and indications. Thomson PDR

Medical marijuana

Massachusetts law

MGL c.94I Medical use of marijuana
Allows use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Selected cases

Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC, 477 Mass. 456 (2017)
An employee who has been fired for using medical marijuana off-site, and not before or during work, may sue her employer for handicap discrimination.

Wright v. Pioneer Valley, Dept. of Industrial Accidents Board No. 04387-15 (2019)
"A workers’ compensation insurer cannot be compelled to pay for an employee's medical marijuana."


935 CMR Cannabis Control Commission

Web sources

Medical use of marijuana program, Cannabis Control Commission
Includes links to information for patients, dispensaries and more.

Medical marijuana, Mass. Medical Society
Links to information on issues for physicians regarding medical marijuana

Medical marijuana dispensaries, Mass. Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
Provides the location and hours of all registered medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts.

Open letter to all Federal firearms licensees, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, September 21, 2011.
"any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition."

Pharmacy liability

Correa v. Schoeck, 479 Mass. 686 (2018)
A pharmacy has "a limited duty to take reasonable steps to notify both the patient and her prescribing physician of the need for prior authorization each time" the patient tries to fill her prescription.

Proper disposal

Safely dispose of prescription drugs, Dept. of Environmental Protection.
Find a kiosk or one-day event near you to dispose of prescription drugs that are expired or no longer needed.



Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only


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Last updated: June 21, 2019