158 medical marijuana applicants attend state DPH briefing

Some of the more than 400 people who attended a Massachusetts Department of Public Health informational meeting in Somerville on October 10 to ask questions about the process for establishing a marijuana dispensary. — Photo by Michelle Gross

Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) officials held an informational meeting for 158 medical marijuana dispensary applicants, including four from Martha’s Vineyard, at the Holiday Inn in Somerville on Thursday, October 10. DPH officials answered applicant questions and reviewed the next steps in the competitive two-part process that may ultimately allow as many as 35 registered marijuana dispensaries (RMDs) to set up shop statewide, with at least one, but no more than five dispensaries per county.

DPH director of health care safety and quality Madeleine Biondolillo, along with DPH representative Allison Nolan, began the two and a half hour session with a summary of what is expected in the next phase, including the timeline, financial requirements, business plan, and scoring system for each application.

In phase two of the competitive application process, DPH will review the applications for appropriateness of the site, the geographical distribution of dispensaries, local support, and the applicant’s ability to meet the overall health needs of registered patients, while ensuring public safety.

Many of the applicants’ questions were focused on the financial requirements, transportation, and delivery of products to and from a grow facility to the dispensary, the timeline for opening an RMD, and logistics of individual RMD locations.

DPH culled the 158 applicants for first stage approval from a list of 181 applications, as part of a move to allow the sale of marijuana for medical purposes following a voter-approved ballot initiative. The law created by the vote requires that marijuana be made available with a physician’s certification to patients with conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS, and other illnesses.

Once certified, applicants will be allowed to cultivate and market medical marijuana and marijuana infused products at registered marijuana dispensaries (RMD’s).

In phase one, all of the applicants cleared a background check and demonstrated financial stability to the tune of $500,000 in start-up capital, plus a non-refundable $1,500 submission fee. In phase two, applicants must pay a non-refundable $30,000 application fee. The annual registration fee for successful applicants will be $50,000.

All four Martha’s Vineyard-based RMD applicants were invited to continue to the more stringent second phase of the application process.

Complementary medicine practitioner Susan Sanford of Greenleaf MV Compassionate Care Inc., Oak Bluffs businessman Mark Wallace of Kingsbury Group Inc., Island businessmen Geoffrey Rose and Jonathan Bernstein of Patient Centric of Martha’s Vineyard Ltd., attended the Thursday meeting. The fourth applicant, Michael Peters, doing business under listed the name MV Greencross, did not.

“There were some good questions and good answers,” Geoffrey Rose told The Times following the meeting Thursday. “But there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered, and we’ll await the answers as we move forward.”

Susan Sanford of Greenleaf said she was happy to get some clarification on some of the next steps in the application process.

“Overall, I felt it was very informative,” Ms. Sanford told The Times. “It’s a long road ahead, and there will be challenges. But I have a great team, and I’m really confident in what we’re trying to do here.”

At their annual town meetings last spring, voters in the towns acted differently on similar warrant articles — ne aimed at restricting or delaying implementation of the new law and another to ban medical marijuana use in any form in any place accessible to the public.

Only Edgartown voters approved a one-year moratorium on the establishment of medical marijuana treatment centers and commercial growing facilities.

Several of the applicants raised the issue of town moratoriums.

“There are provisions in the regulations to look at the availability of support or non-opposition from the oversight of the town,” Ms. Biondolillo said. As stipulated in the application process, support from the local town officials, including a chief administrative officer, member of city council, or a member of the board of health is required in the town the applicant plans to open an RMD.

“We would encourage that outreach to occur,” Ms. Biondolillo said.

Applications must be hand-delivered by Thursday, November 21, to the DPH office in Boston. The anticipated announcement date for the 35 chosen applicants is January 31.