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Editorial: Twists and turns with medical pot

Massachusetts’ maiden foray into the world of state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries has been anything but smooth.

Chalk it up to either state officials being completely caught off-guard when voters passed the ballot initiative calling for the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes or that, once again, state officials felt the need to re-invent the wheel instead of using someone else’s blueprint when it came to how to get such operations up and running.

It’s not as if no other states offer some kind of model for Massachusetts to use or even completely duplicate.

But the ongoing bumps in the road with this process don’t just lie with the Department of Public Health or other state officials. Those seeking licensing for medical marijuana dispensaries share in the blame.

Take what happened this week with the proposed Northampton facility.

During the state vetting of New England Treatment Access Inc. and those associated with the company, it was determined there was a problem with firm’s executive director’s resume, specifically the academic history cited in his resume. It seems that the company doing the background checks could not confirm that Kevin Fisher, who resigned from the post Saturday, had spent two years at Miami University and then earned a bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University.

When this issue was first brought to his attention in April, Fisher equivocated, saying that Youngstown State wouldn’t release his transcripts because of money owed the school. If true, that should have raised flags for all involved, including New England Treatment Access’ board. Instead, the process continued along until this week, when new questions were raised and a hold put on the company’s plan for the Northampton and Brookline dispensaries, as well as a cultivating plant in Franklin.

It could very well be all a big misunderstanding. Given the importance of the effort to bring the benefits of medical marijuana to those with serious health and pain issues, however, we can’t see how any kind of risk could be taken — by the state or the company involved with this application. One might even ask why the company didn’t pick up on this when it hired Fisher to be executive director.

What shouldn’t happen, at least in this case, is for the state to feel any pressure when it comes to the application from New England Treatment Access.

True, events have created delays ... but like it or not, delays are preferable to problems once the dispensaries are up and running.

The state owes that to everyone involved.

Problems, what problems? The only problem is that a DPH estimated 130,000+ people, most of whom do not have the space or ability to grow their own nor have a reliable black-market source (a person with a recommendation and who is carrying it is immune from prosecution) are being $h!t upon by bureaucrats who are functionally illiterate. The law clearly commanded DPH to have at least one 'dispensary' in each county already be registered by the end of last year and would have produce for sale months ago. The law clearly commanded the process of granting or denying a registration was to take 90 days from the DPH's receipt of a complete application and that process was to be fully developed within 120 days following January 1, 2013.

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