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Medical Marijuana

State to begin 2nd round for pot shop licenses

GREENFIELD — Still no medical marijuana for Franklin County.

State medical marijuana dispensary applicants have until Aug. 29 to apply for a provisional license to run a dispensary in Franklin County.

The application process will kick off July 9 and licenses will be announced in October.

Franklin County has been one of four counties that have been waiting in the wings for applicants since the state Department of Public Health announced 20 provisional licenses in January.

The group of open counties has now expanded to seven after the state conducted a second review and background check of the initial 20 applicants.

The state planned to open dispensaries this summer, but after awarding the 20 provisional licenses, complaints of conflicts of interest and misstatements in applications forced the state to postpone the process and conduct a second, more stringent review.

Only 11 applicants successfully made it through the second review, said Karen van Unen, director of the state’s medical marijuana program, in a news conference on Friday afternoon.

The state eliminated nine of the 20 applicants it originally approved, including applicants in Boston.

Only one western Massachusetts applicant received approval — New England Treatment Access Inc. in Northampton.

Of those surviving 11, Patriot Care Corp. which is eyeing Greenfield, received a provisional license for Lowell. The group was also invited to resubmit to two additional counties. Executive Director Robert Mayerson said the state set up a meeting in July with his group to discuss next steps, but beyond that he did not have further details.

“We feel very honored and humbled. We’re pleased with the confidence the DPH has expressed in us,” Mayerson said.

Patriot Care was among the six applicants that were invited to reapply in the open counties in January. The list has now dropped to five.

Since that time, Patriot Care had been courting Greenfield officials, meeting with Mayor William Martin and determining an appropriate dispensary location.

“Franklin County is one of those counties we’d be submitting for,” Mayerson said. “We’re very interested in Greenfield.”

The 11 applicants were deemed highly qualified or qualified and best suited to meet patient needs across the state, van Unen said.

Ninety-seven percent of the state’s population is within 30 miles of a newly provisional licensed registered medical marijuana dispensary, van Unen said.

The final inspection phase will check the provisional licensees for grow readiness, retail readiness and patient safety.

Applicants that were not selected can reapply in a second application round during the summer of 2015, which could open the door once again to the three local applicants that were initially rejected. This includes JM Farm’s Patient Group Inc. of James Pasiecnik of Whately, MR Absolute Medical Resources Inc., led by Greenfield liquor store owner Michael Ruggeri, and A New Leaf, co-directed by Montague residents Joshua and Marina Goldman and Susan Lowry. Josh Goldman runs a fish farm in Montague.

Hopeful applicants may have a higher threshold second time around with the state taking into consideration the information it learned throughout the stricter review process.

Licenses for the second batch of new applicants are anticipated for 2016. Before that, the state will access program data and patient access needs.

This would be the period where the state tries to fill its quota set by Massachusetts voters in 2012.

Under the November 2012 ballot question, voters authorized the state to award up to 35 licenses across the state, with at least one per county but no more than five per county.

The state’s selection process came under fire this winter after several complaints and accusations of conflicts and misstatements were raised concerning the 16 companies that received one of 20 initial licenses. Several lawsuits were filed against the state regarding the fairness of its licensing process.

Patriot Care was one of those companies that was criticized by a competitor. The complaint against the state, by Cardiac Arrhythmia Syndromes Foundation Inc. of Andover, alleged that Patriot Care’s application omitted mention of a lawsuit alleging fraud, a judgment for failure to pay taxes and a bankruptcy, all involving Nichols Vita, a director of the team.

With pressure from the state Legislature and the public, the state Department of Public Health conducted a months-long review of the 20 initial licensees. The process included 176 additional individual and corporate backgrounds checks, a look at affiliated entities in other states and a status review of relationships with host communities.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 on Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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