Photo by David Trawin
In a controversial decision by Massachusetts state officials on June 27, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced that a mere 11 of 35 medical marijuana dispensary applicants statewide will receive licensing. Voters approved the Medical Use of Marijuana ballot initiative in 2012 with 63 percent of the vote and majority support in 349 of 351 cities and towns.
The report notes that those 11 approved applicants would bring 97 percent of the Commonwealth’s population within 30 miles of a registered marijuana dispensary, ensuring patient access across the state. Yet the decision will leave several of the state’s largest, most populous cities — including Boston, Cambridge, Springfield, and Worcester — completely devoid of local dispensaries.
Green Heart Holistic Health & Pharmaceuticals was one of the dispensaries whose was denied. In an online message from Andrew DeAngelo, president of the company, he shares “Green Heart is disappointed by the DPH announcement. Our only regret is that we will not have the opportunity to bring our pioneering best practices, gold standard industry model to the patients and greater community of Boston.”
It appears there were a host of reasons why 24 of the dispensaries missed the mark in the eyes of state officials. One pervasive problem across the nation that acts as an obstacle to the legitimization of the legal cannabis trade is the threat of seizure of funds from federally chartered banks by the federal government. Marijuana Business Daily reports that John Greene, founder of the Massachusetts dispensary Greenway Wellness Foundation, proposed at 70 Southampton Street in Boston, encountered just that issue. Greenway was rejected by the DPH — even after receiving a provisional license — and says the state eliminated them because the company appeared to have insufficient funding. However, Greene maintains that he was forced to return capital to investors after multiple banks refused to take his money.
It also appears that proposed dispensaries in the greater Boston area may have been plagued from the very start. The Boston Globe reports that Green Heart dispensary was the focus of political controversy from the moment the state announced in January that they had made the initial cut. City officials and neighbors of the site expressed concern about its proximity to several methadone clinics. City councilors also chided Green Heart for claiming in their license applications that they had officials’ support. Councilor Tito Jackson denying he backed Green Heart, as the company had claimed.
Karen van Unen, executive director of DPH’s Medical Use of Marijuana Program, explains, “This process is designed to ensure only the highest quality applicants advance to meet the patient access and public safety needs of the Commonwealth.”
According to a press release from the Massachusetts Health and Human Services Departments and Divisions, registered marijuana dispensary applicants will advance to the inspection phase of the selection process following the successful completion of the department’s verification phase, which includes enhanced background checks. In an interview with the Boston Business Journal DPH spokesman David Kibbe said, “Any applicant not selected in June will be required to wait until next year when the next full application round is expected to be reopened.”
What do you think about Massachusetts opening only 11 dispensaries? How do you think it will effect patients? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.