No medical marijuana dispensary for Martha’s Vineyard

Various strains of medical marijuana are grown on site at Greenleaf Compassionate Care in Rhode Island, which had hoped to partner with Susan Sanford of Greenleaf MV Compassionate Care Inc. in West Tisbury.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) Friday announced the statewide recipients of a limited number of registered marijuana dispensary (RMD) licenses. None of the four Martha’s Vineyard applicants for a license in Dukes County made the list.

The DPH list of approved dispensaries listed Berkshire, Franklin, Nantucket, and Dukes counties as those counties not chosen for a dispensary license.

Four Vineyard applicants were in the running for the Dukes County license to own and operate an RMD. They included Complementary Medicine practitioner Susan Sanford of Greenleaf MV Compassionate Care Inc., Oak Bluffs businessman Mark Wallace of Kingsbury Group Inc., Our Island Club co-founder Geoffrey Rose and Jonathan Bernstein of Patient Centric of Martha’s Vineyard Ltd., and Michael Peters, doing business under the name MV Greencross.

DPH said the selection committee made their selections using objective scoring guided by state procurement principles. “The process included extensive background checks and was based on factors such as overall quality of the application, appropriateness of the site, local support, and the applicant’s ability to meet the overall health needs of registered patients while ensuring public safety,” DPH said.

Greenleaf MV Compassion Care received a score of 118. Patient Centric of Martha’s Vineyard came in at 125. MV Greencross scored 91. Kingsbury Group scored a 65 on their Duke’s County application. Kingsbury also applied for licenses in Plymouth County and Barnstable County. Kingsbury Group was among the lowest scoring applicants.

Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, the highest scoring applicant with a total of 160 points, won licenses for Barnstable, Bristol, and Plymouth counties.

“We are pleased to announce that qualified patients will soon have full access to marijuana for medical use in Massachusetts,” said MMJ Program Executive Director Karen van Unen. “Only dispensaries with the highest quality applications were selected to be a part of this new industry, which will create hundreds of jobs while maintaining community safety.”

“Eight highly qualified applicants who were not granted their proposed location will be invited to seek a change of location to a county without provisional approval for a Registered Marijuana Dispensary,” DPH said. This phase will allow the selection committee to review high-scoring applicants who wish to seek a change of location to an underserved county to maximize patient access.”

The eight standby applicants scored between 137 and 149 points. No Island applicant is on that list.

Applicants comment

Reacting to Friday’s news, Geoffrey Rose of Patient Centric said that he remained optimistic that his company would be considered if the Dukes County slot goes unfilled. “I’m hopeful based on the fact that we received the highest score in our county,” Mr. Rose told The Times Friday immediately following the DPH announcement.

“I’m speculating that those entities that have been invited to apply for a license in another location, should they choose not to seek a license, will open a window of opportunity and it is likely that they (DPH) will choose the highest scoring applicant.”

Founders of Our Island Club — a community-based service that offers savings to year-round Island residents for products and services, such as groceries, home heating fuel, and gasoline — Mr. Rose and Mr. Bernstein said in August they were confident that their community-based effort would lend itself to opening a dispensary in Duke’s County. The pair had eyed a West Tisbury location.

Licensed physical therapist and acupuncturist Susan Sanford filed for a medical marijuana license under the name Susan Sanford of Greenleaf MV Compassion Care. President and chief executive of Vineyard Complementary Medicine on State Road in West Tisbury, Ms. Sanford was planning to open in the same location. Ms. Sanford had partnered with Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center (GCCC) on Aquidneck Island just outside Portsmouth, Rhode Island, which she  described as a model for the type of facility she would like to operate.

“As part of a collaborative team effort in the application process, I feel I gave my best effort and earned the trust and respect of the Island community,” Ms. Sanford wrote in an email to The Times on Friday. “The entire process has been enlightening and I look forward to continued involvement in facilitating a medical marijuana program on Martha’s Vineyard that provides our community and patients with the best care possible.”

Jordan Wallace formed the nonprofit Kingsbury Group Corporation. The group was legally organized prior to filing their application with the DPH for a state license under the name Mark Wallace, Jordan Wallace’s father, in both Dukes and Barnstable counties. Mr. Wallace could not be reached for comment.

In comments last August, Mr. Wallace told The Times, “I became interested when I saw the support of the law by the people of Massachusetts, and specifically by my fellow Islanders. I recognized, along with the people of Massachusetts and of 19 other states, a need currently unmet.”

Politics charged

Critics of the licensing process, including the Massachusetts Republican Party, questioned the level of transparency, describing it “politicized and secretive” and alleging that state Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett is too closely associated with former Congressman William Delahunt, who is among the license applicants with political ties, the State House News Service reported Friday. Mr. Delahunt’s group — Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts — was awarded provisional licenses for dispensaries in Mashpee, Taunton, and Plymouth.

Middlesex County, the state’s most populous county, received the highest number of dispensary licenses, four, one each in Lowell, Ayer, Newton, and Cambridge.

DPH in January appointed Karen van Unen, the former chief operating officer of a Dorchester public health program, as executive director of its medical marijuana program and empowered her with the final decisions on all licenses. The Massachusetts Medical Society cautioned Friday that marijuana’s effectiveness as medicine has not been scientifically proven, and it said its increased availability presents implications for occupational safety, and “poses health risks of toxins and cognitive impairment.”

Zoning regulations in place

“All successful applicants will be required to demonstrate compliance with municipal rules, regulations, ordinances, and bylaws before opening,” DPH said. “Dispensaries must also pass the MMJ Program’s inspection process prior to receiving full licensure. The inspection includes security, architectural review, growing requirements, and compliance with local zoning and laws.”

According to state law, an RMD may not be sited within 500 feet of a school, daycare center, or any facility in which children commonly congregate. Municipalities may implement local zoning code changes or establish regulations and fees that will affect RMDs.

Only one Island town has established RMD zoning regulations. At a special town meeting in November, Oak Bluffs voters approved a zoning overlay district that would allow a medical marijuana dispensary in three areas of town: a small parcel off Holmes Hole Road that abuts the Tisbury industrial area, several parcels near the Goodale Construction sand pit on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, and the health care district where Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is located.

Massachusetts residents who have a prescription for marijuana will need to register to purchase or grow marijuana.  According to DPH, “Qualified patients would pay a $50 annual registration fee, and patients who qualify for a hardship cultivation license would pay an additional $100 annual fee.” Patients with financial hardships could appeal the fees, but they would only be waived with approval from state officials.

Voters approved the use of marijuana for certain medical conditions that include cancer, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease in November 2012.

DPH enacted regulations and last November, dispensary applicants were required to hand deliver an extensive proposal for their medical marijuana facility, along with a $30,000 non-refundable application fee.