I-Team: Cost of “flawed” medical marijuana process

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Two years after Massachusetts’ medical marijuana law went into effect, not one dispensary has opened. The 22News I-Team discovered what’s gone wrong and how much it’s cost us.

Governor Charlie Baker’s administration has revamped the medical marijuana process and new applications will begin to be accepted on June 29th.

18,512 patients have been certified to receive medical marijuana in Massachusetts.  The state has reviewed and approved 9150 patient registrations.  Two years after Governor Deval Patrick implemented the law, there isn’t a single dispensary open.

(What did the previous administration do wrong?)
“Well I’ve said for a long time how the previous administration went about the medical marijuana process let’s just call it odd, okay… flawed,” said Governor Baker.

In June of 2014, the state’s Department of Public Health rejected 9 of the 20 medical marijuana applications it initially approved due to misleading claims or allegations of hiding profits.

Lawsuits followed, and it’s cost us money. The state has paid one law firm (Nystrom, Beckman and Paris) $158,626.43 for a lawsuit that it lost and $805,862.95 in total for all medical marijuana cases.

Governor Baker’s administration is now licensing medical marijuana dispensaries like pharmacies.

“I do believe that will clean up a lot of the issues associated with the previous way it was done,” said Governor Baker.

Vanessa Otero of Debilitating Medical Treatment Centers, told 22News this should make the new application process much smoother.

“Instead of being scored they’re being reviewed to ensure they comply with the law,” said Otero.

Debilitating Medical Treatment Centers planned to cultivate on Appleton Street in Holyoke, after its initial application was approved, it was rejected.

“The issue was the audit.  It hadn’t been resolved, it has been resolved and cleared and we’re ready to move forward,” said Otero.

The state auditor’s office claimed their Board President Herbie Flores had significant issues documenting his use of state funds.

Otero told 22News they still have Holyoke as a potential site, but are exploring other options.

Cities or towns can’t turn medical marijuana facilities away.  They can create by-laws that would control where they would be located.  The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission has worked with some cities and towns to create model by-laws for the medical marijuana dispensary process.

When applications are handed in, specific locations will be included.

Under the previous guidelines, only four dispensaries were approved to grow and none were approved to sell.  One of those, New England Treatment Access has been approved to grow and plans to sell in Northampton.

What this new application process could lead to is a lot more applicants than we saw before.  Governor Baker hopes dispensaries will open in 6-10 months.

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