Medical marijuana process is creeping along

Nearly five months since any visible progress

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – New York is about to become the latest state to legalize medical marijuana. Massachusetts voters legalized it in November 2012.

The state approved 20 dispensaries across the state in January, but then the process began creeping along.

The medical marijuana process in Massachusetts was moving along at a steady pace, but now the Department of Public Health is taking a very hard look at all approved applicants.

“We met with the state once again and had some discussions with them. I assume within the next few weeks, the state is going to look at all 20 applicants that were asked to go to the next phase and narrow that down a little bit further,” said Brian Lees of Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers, the lone Hampden County applicant to advance this far in the process.

There were only two dispensaries initially approved in western Massachusetts. One in Hampshire County in Northampton and one in Hampden County in Holyoke.

“Just like any business, we pursue it. There would be a tax generating business, it would be creating jobs we believe that it could be a good fit here because it is manufacturing and medical use and we would welcome it,” said Holyoke’s Director of Planning and Economic Development Marcos Marrero.

We just don’t know when. A Health department spokesman told 22News they don’t have a timeline to finish these reviews. They also sent us this statement: “DPH is committed to striking the appropriate balance between ensuring patient access and public safety, and right now we are focused on verifying all information and operational plans submitted by the applicants currently in the verification phase,”

The Hampden County applicant plans to eventually move into the old American Electric Building in Holyoke just down the street from police headquarters.

“We’re still looking at 181 Appleton (Street) as our location to cultivate, process and distribute all in one location and it will take anywhere from four to six months (for the building to be ready),” said Lees.

Lees told 22News after the building is ready it could take several more months to grow the product.  In New York, medical marijuana will be legal as soon as their Governor signs the bill, but you won’t be able to smoke it there.

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