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Medical Marijuana

Efforts at local pot dispensary up in smoke

State invites firms from outside county to apply in next round

GREENFIELD — Twenty applicants statewide received licenses to run medical marijuana dispensaries, but none of those applicants were from or for Franklin County.

On Friday, the state Medical Use of Marijuana Program approved the first 20 licenses for 10 of the 14 counties. Applications for Franklin County, along with Berkshire, Dukes and Nantucket counties did not make the cut.

Franklin County is not ruled out. Eight applicants from other parts of the state, which the selection committee deemed highly qualified but were not granted their proposed locations, have been invited to seek licences for one of the four counties left out this round.

The state will give the eight applicants an opportunity to update their applications to target the four counties, a process that will launch in the next few weeks, said Karen van Unen, executive director of the Department of Public Health program.

Among the eight applicants are Coastal Compassion of Bristol County, Good Chemistry of Massachusetts of Essex County, The Haven Center of Barnstable County, Mass. Medicum Corp. of Norfolk County, Patriot Care Corp. of Worcester County and The Greeneway Wellness Foundation, which proposed locations in Bristol and Plymouth counties.

The state awarded licenses for sites in Northampton and Holyoke.

The three applicants who proposed locations in Franklin County in the first phase may also re-apply for the second round as well.

The state said it would announce more information on the second phase in the future. It was not immediately clear why none of the local applicants was licensed while out-of-county applicants were invited to apply for the county opening.

The state law, approved in 2012, authorized the state to register at least one dispensary and no more than five in each of the state’s 13 counties.

“We’re committed to every person having access to high- quality medicine,” van Unen said Friday. “We wanted to give (the eight applicants) an opportunity to apply for the open spots. We weren’t prepared to settle for anything less than highly qualified applicants. Only dispensaries with the highest quality applications were selected to be a part of this new industry.”

Franklin County can expect to find out which nonprofits have re-applied for a location here in early June.

The state was confident that the chosen eight would seek locations in the four remaining counties.

“The fact that they got a nod from the Department of Public Health will give them an advantage. We believe they’ll be able to step up to the plate,” van Unen said.

By June, the state expects to have 24 to 26 licensed dispensaries.

The licenses right now are provisional. Before opening, the 20 applicants have to demonstrate compliance with local laws and pass the state’s inspection process before receiving full licensure. The inspection reviews security, architectural issues, growing requirements, and compliance with local zoning and other laws.

In Franklin County, the three applicants who didn’t make the cut were A New Leaf, managed by Joshua Goldman of Montague, who runs a successful fish farm; J.M. Farm’s Patient Group, Inc., managed by James Pasiecnik, a potato farmer in Whately; and Joshua Sodaitis of Somerville, Nicholas Spagnola of Revere, and M.R. Absolute Medical Resources, Inc., managed by Michael Ruggeri of Greenfield, a liquor store operator. Each had to pay a nonrefundable $30,000 application fee.

The state would not comment on the merits of individual applications.

The selection process involved an independent review of each applicant’s proposal and background checks by an independent investigative firm, van Unen said.

Each application received a score based on corporate background, business management experience, suitability, financial condition, location, staffing plan and development and operation plans. The selection committee then recommended applicants based on objective benchmarks including geographic dispersion, patient access, security and readiness to operate.

The highest score possible was 163 points. The 20 chosen applicants did not necessarily receive the highest scores.

Of the three applicants passed over in Franklin County, J.M. Farm’s Patient Group received the highest score of 141. The group planned to operate a dispensary at 10 Greenfield Road in Deerfield.

A New Leaf, which planned to operate a dispensary at 253 Millers Fall Road in Turners Falls, received a score of 111.

MR Absolute Medical Resources, Inc. received the lowest score of 106 points. Ruggeri proposed 32 Mead St. in Greenfield for a dispensary location and 253 Millers Falls Road in Turners Falls as a cultivation location.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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