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Medical Marijuana

Five pass 1st test for county medical marijuana licenses

Five applicants who want to run medical marijuana dispensaries in Franklin County have moved one step closer.

They have passed the state’s first screening and are among 158 applicants statewide eligible to move to the next and final phase of the selection process in the competition for one of the 35 licenses to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in the state.

At least one dispensary, but no more than five, is allowed in each of the state’s 13 counties.

Twenty-two of the initial 181 applicants were eliminated from the first round and one applicant withdrew.

In Franklin County, Baystate Alternative Health Care, A New Leaf Inc., Holistics Specialty Care Inc., JM Farm’s Patient Group Inc. and MR Absolute Medical Resources Inc., passed the first test.

One applicant, under the nonprofit name Fotia’s Inc., did not meet the criteria to move forward.

Another applicant, Patriot Care Corp., was listed in the first phase’s list in Franklin County, but not in the updated list. The nonprofit did receive approval in Hampshire and Hampden counties to continue.

Applications were denied for a variety of reasons, including failing to incorporate as a nonprofit or a lack of demonstrated financial viability, according to the state Department of Public Health.

“This is a very competitive process and we required applicants to meet high standards to advance,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett in a press release.

Michael Ruggeri, owner of Ruggeri’s Beverage and Redemption Center on Deerfield Street, doing business as MR Absolute Medical Resources, said he intends to move forward with a dispensary in Franklin County.

He wouldn’t disclose the proposed locations.

Whately potato farmer James Pasiecnik said he plans to move forward and this week he will meet with the boards of selectmen in Whately and Deerfield to discuss his JM Farm’s Patient Group Inc. plans. Pasiecnik has proposed growing marijuana on 35,000 square feet of his River Road property. He has eyed the Whately and Deerfield industrial parks as potential dispensary locations. Pasiecnik said he also received interest from a possible investor in Oregon.

The next phase

To enter phase two of the process, applicants must pay a $30,000 nonrefundable application fee, which is on top of the $500,000 in financing applicants had to show during phase one.

In phase two, a selection committee will review and select dispensaries through a competitive process, according to the state Department of Health. The committee will evaluate and score phase two applications based on appropriateness of the proposed site, geographical distribution of dispensaries, local support, and the applicant’s ability to meet the overall health needs of registered patients, while ensuring public safety.

The phase two deadline for applications in which they will be reviewed by a selection committee has yet to be determined.

An informational meeting for phase two’s 158 applicants will be held on Oct. 10, at 1 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, 30 Washington St. in Somerville.

An additional hurdle for applicants in phase two involves winning and demonstrating community support — a task that has grown daunting as many cities and towns across the state pass temporary moratoriums to draft zoning regulations.

Applicants must also show that they can comply with all municipal rules, regulations, ordinances and bylaws.

This week, Bernardston overwhelmingly approved a one-year moratorium. And Conway passed a temporary year ban in May. Other neighboring towns like Whately are currently drafting proposals for temporary bans.

The Greenfield Town Council narrowly defeated a moratorium.

Like Greenfield, Deerfield also did not approve a moratorium. The small farm town may become one of the first towns to approve new zoning regulations.

The town’s Planning Board scheduled a public hearing on Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall to consider allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in certain zones by special permit.

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