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Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana applicants address chamber group

Medical marijuana dispensary proponents in Franklin County hope to serve “not the potheads of the ’60s and ’70s, from our generation, but the true cancer patients and (those with) other afflictions,” Theresa Creeden of JM Farm’s Patient Group told a Franklin County Chamber of Commerce gathering Friday. Her group is one of those still hoping to run such facilities in the county.

Creeden, whose husband suffered with the pain associated with colon cancer for years, and who is chief executive officer of JM Farm, said the aim is “to ease the pain of children with epilepsy, to dull the pain of those who have cancer.”

Representatives of the three nonprofit applicants addressed about 110 community leaders, describing their backgrounds, philosophies and ideas on the state’s process, which was described as “a little foggy” by Creeden. The local applicants may be invited by the state to submit a new proposal.

“We’re clearly going into an unchartered course here,” Creeden, an accountant, said, noting that the federal government still considers medical marijuana use to be illegal. “If you asked me if I was going to talk about marijuana dispensaries five years ago, I would have went, ‘Oh no, that’s illegal.’”

It’s also uncharted territory to see whether JM Farm’s or any other prior preliminary license applicants will be invited to apply for Franklin, Berkshire, Nantucket or Dukes counties, or whether any of the applicants represented Friday will survive the state’s multistage licensing process or local permitting.

For A New Leaf Inc., the other nonprofit whose application to open a dispensary in Franklin County was rejected in January by the Department of Public Health but is waiting to learn whether it will be invited to reapply, the fact that the state’s four counties had no provisional license applications approved left partner Joshua Goldman of Montague to conclude. “I don’t think that’s entirely an accident.”

The scoring criteria were weighted unintentionally to approving “very robust organizations” in a way that was a better fit for more populous areas, Goldman said.

“In some ways, despite the intention to ensure that this is very responsive to local communities, the scoring criteria didn’t really take that into account,” said Goldman. “That’s a question that we really need to keep our eyes on going forward.”

Given questions being raised this week by Senate President Robert DeLeo, who called for the Department of Public Health to review all 20 preliminary licenses awarded, Goldman said, “We’re in some murky waters right now.”

Meanwhile, DPH has asked six applicants whose applications had been rejected to reapply, including Patriot Care Corp., which received a provisional license to operate a dispensary in Lowell, with a cultivation facility in South Hadley.

“Why they did that rather than necessarily saying to the people in the county, ‘Here’s an opportunity to remediate some of the deficiencies, I don’t know,” he said. “Our hope is to look at partnerships and how this process unfolds, and very much to stay in the game.”

Goldman, who also heads Australis Aquaculture fish farm in Turners Falls, called the next stage in the medical marijuana process in Franklin County “a tremendous economic development opportunity. … And the host communities need to be very judicious in thinking about what projects they support to ensure not only that there’s local control and accountability, but that the activities proposed really deliver the full measure of economic development, which comes much less from dispensing and more from cultivation and processing. For us in an agricultural community, this is really a wonderful opportunity to leverage our skills and resources. The political leadership needs to be very thoughtful in ensuring that what comes next really delivers those benefits to us as a community.”

Patriot CEO Robert Mayerson, the former president of Eastern Mountain Sports and treasurer of Staples, said his organization already has experience setting up dispensaries in Arizona and the District of Columbia, and would bring that experience to bear in Greenfield, where it has already approached town officials.

“We have an exclusive focus on the most highly regulated and medically oriented states,” he said. “We’re not Colorado, we’re not California. .... We’re a medically oriented company that looks to build a sustainable enterprise over time. ... If you have visions in your head of Colorado, with lines around the corner, this is not what this is.”

Franklin County has a potential of about 3,000 customers who have one of the medical conditions to qualify for a state marijuana dispensary card, estimated Mayerson, who added that apart from having a team well versed in the medical, security and business management aspects of medical marijuana, Patriot has the capital resources to operate a business that will take time to get established while also donating up to 15 percent of profits back to the community.

One question posed to the speakers involved how their businesses would comepte with an established black market. All three groups said their product would be priced accordingly with provisions in their business models for special pricing in cases of financial hardship.

Michael Ruggeri of Greenfield, whose M.R. Absolute Medical Resources Inc. also failed to get the license it sought in Franklin County, did not attend Friday’s meeting.

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