The first medical cannabis dispensary in Massachusetts has served as many patients in its first two months of operation as it originally expected to serve in its first year.
Alternative Therapies Group (ATG), which opened on June 24, served 1,500 customers in July and August, according to The Boston Globe. It has been the state’s only operating dispensary until today, when a second one opened, the Boston Business Journal reported.
Both dispensaries were granted special permission by the state to begin filling demand without meeting required testing standards, though other dispensaries in the future will have to meet those requirements before being allowed to sell MMJ.
A total of 15 dispensaries have thus far received provisional licenses.
Demand is obviously high: The Globe reported that more than 20,000 state residents have obtained a doctor’s certification for MMJ, and around 12,000 have finished state paperwork in order to purchase cannabis.
There are limits on how much patients can purchase from ATG and In Good Health, the second dispensary. Currently, patients can only buy 4.23 ounces every two months, but once testing standards are in place, that number will jump to 10 ounces every two months.
ATG will have a competitive advantage for the foreseeable future, as it can sell edibles, while In Good Health currently cannot.
VIA MJ Biz Daily
By Kay Lazar and Virgie Hoban | GLOBE STAFF AND GLOBE CORRESPONDENT
SALEM — It was 40 minutes past 10 a.m., and already roughly two dozen patients waited in line. They had come for the start of business Wednesday at Alternative Therapies Group, the first dispensary to sell marijuana for medical use in Massachusetts. Patient number one was a gray-haired man with a walker.
Access to the dispensary is by appointment only. A police officer stood by the entrance to the old brick factory building, and a private security guard checked off patients’ names from a clipboard as they waited under crystal blue skies.
Voters in November 2012 overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana in a statewide ballot initiative. But the awarding of dispensary licenses quickly became mired in controversy under the administration of Governor Deval Patrick, with questions about conflicts of interest and political favoritism. The system, stalled for months as patients grew increasingly frustrated, was recently revamped and streamlined by Governor Charlie Baker’s administration.
Now, nearly three years after the vote, medical marijuana is legally available to the 18,000 people who, according to state records, have the required physician certifications.
“We fought a long time for this,” said Peter Hayashi, a 59-year-old former neuropsychologist who was among the first to enter the dispensary.
Hayashi said he has a painful neurological condition — at times, cold air can make his skin hurt — and he has been getting medical marijuana from a Maine dispensary to ease his symptoms. Without the marijuana, he said, he has often spent hours in bed, his skin under covers to protect it against temperature changes.
“Marijuana has helped me be up and around more normally,” he said.
Wendy Atwood was waiting in line, too. The 53-year-old said she has used marijuana to ease knee and back pain from arthritis, depression, and anxiety. She also said she has long used the drug recreationally.
“I am a law-abiding citizen, a mom with two kids, and a day-care provider,” Atwood said. “It’s going to be very exciting” to walk into the dispensary, she added. “I’m happy that it’s not under wraps anymore.”
But the process was hardly speedy. Waves of patients waited up to an hour in line, and then, in small groups, were ushered inside.
They said they were shown a 10-minute video about marijuana and the types of strains the dispensary would be selling, although on Wednesday just two varieties were available.
Patients said they were not allowed to see or smell the products, and were instead shown pictures on a computer screen, using a system that staffers told patients they had learned to operate just the night before.
Patients said they placed their orders and then went to another area in the dispensary to pick them up.
Many said that the prices were higher than they had anticipated, and that the dispensary took only cash, but had an ATM for those who ran short.
Barry Levine, a 62-year-old self-employed lawyer from Marblehead, said he paid $372 for 1 ounce. Levine said marijuana helps ease his nausea from chronic gastritis.
Access to medical marijuana “is a panacea for everyone who uses it,” he said. “This for me is an old hippy’s fantasy land.”
About 120 patients had signed up for appointments Wednesday, according to the company’s security guard. Alternative Therapies executive director Christopher Edwards briefly stepped outside to speak with the guard, but declined a request for an interview.
Fourteen other dispensaries from Northampton to Boston have received preliminary state approval and are finalizing plans to open. At least two are expected to open this fall.
The executive director of a trade association for the dispensaries issued a statement saying the industry welcomes the opening of the first facility, but raised concerns the state’s testing standards for medical marijuana are too stringent.
“Massachusetts has the most conservative testing limits in the country,” Kevin Gilnack, executive director of the Commonwealth Dispensary Association, said in the statement.
Alternative Therapies was able to open after receiving a temporary waiver last week from the state that allows it to sell cannabis that has not been fully tested for pesticides and other contaminants.
The one-time waiver was granted because laboratories in Massachusetts are not yet able to complete the quality testing required under state health department rules, Baker’s office said last week.
But chemists at two labs poised to test dispensary products said the problem isn’t operations at the labs. The problem, they said, resides with the state’s guidelines, issued just six weeks ago, which set standards that are too stringent for lead.
The trade association said in its statement that the state made an errant assumption about how much marijuana patients might consume.
“A survey of available data showed that the heaviest users consume about 2 to 3 grams of cannabis per day,” Gilnack stated. “Connecticut assumed a patient might consume 2.33 grams per day while Nevada assumed a patient might consume 5 grams in a day,” he said, yet the Massachusetts Department of Public Health “based our testing limits on the assumption a patient could consume 28 grams — about six to 12 times more than what we’re seeing in other states.”
VIA The Boston Globe
Officials in Massachusetts have released a list of medical marijuana dispensaries that will be the first legal purveyors of pot in the state.
With the law designed to eventually allow at least one dispensary in each county, the application process devised by the state of Massachusetts was crafted to avoid the pitfalls other states have seen when legalizing medical marijuana. Rather than a “lottery” type system, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health chose winners based on the appropriateness of the proposed dispensary site, geography, local feedback and the ability of the applicant to meet the overall needs of patients while at the same time ensuring patient health.
The three-round application process saw 181 initial applicants, which had been whittled down to around 100 by last November, with 20 final applicants being awarded a license with the first announcement (other license winners will be released at a later date). Licensees will be required to pay a $50,000 annual registration fee.
- Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, Inc
- William Noyes Webster Foundation, Inc
- Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, Inc
- Brighton Health Advocates Inc. d/b/a/ Compassionate Care
- Alternative Therapies Group, Inc
- Healthy Pharms, Inc
- Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers, Inc.
- New England Treatment Access, Inc.
- Patriot Care Corp.
- Central Ave Compassionate Care, Inc.
- Garden Remedies, Inc
- The Greenway Wellness Foundation, Inc.
- New England Treatment Access, Inc.
- Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, Inc
- In Good Health, Inc
- Good Chemistry of Massachusetts, Inc
- Green Heart Holistic Health & Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
- Bay State Relief, Inc
- Good Chemistry of Massachusetts, Inc.
At a meeting led by Massachusetts’s executive director of the Department of Public Health’s medical marijuana program, it was revealed that not only had the state’s program taken off like “rapid lightning,” but dispensaries which acquired provisional licenses were planning on making home deliveries.
California and Washington are currently the only two states in which home delivery of marijuana and marijuana-edibles is unambiguously legal. Karen van Unen, executive director of the Department of Public Health’s medical marijuana program, is convinced that Massachusetts will be the next.
During a recent presentation to a state mayoral convention, she said that with the approximately 120,000 infirm patients expected to partake of the medical marijuana program in its first two years, home delivery would have to be an option.
According to Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, the “serious-minded nature” of the state’s licensing procedures should act as a bulwark against dispensaries of a suspect nature.
The state needed to balance the interests of local law enforcement and the voter-approved law that requires there to be a licensed dispensary in each county.
“We really wanted to ensure that patients had choice,” van Unen said, adding that she was “absolutely delighted” by the licensing process, calling it “multi-layered” and “robust.”
[Image via AFP]
Via Raw Story
By Stephanie Barry
SPRINGFIELD - The public is warming to the idea of medical marijuana dispensaries as the state's final deadline for applicants nears, according to a new survey by the Western New England University Polling Institute.
A statewide telephone survey of 517 adults conducted earlier this month found that 74 percent support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, while 21 percent oppose the policy and another 5 percent were undecided. Meanwhile, 61 percent of adults said they would support a dispensary in their community; 30 percent said they would be opposed and 9 percent were undecided or declined to answer.
Approval to introduce medical marijuana shops came through a ballot measure in the 2012 general election. The initiative won approval from voters 63 to 37 percent.
The polling institute showed support for the practice has grown significantly since the last time it posed the question to voters - just before the 2012 ballot question. That survey showed 63 percent supported the policy, with 29 percent in opposition.
"The survey data indicate that Massachusetts residents have embraced the concept of medical marijuana in increasing numbers," said Tim Vercellotti, director of the Polling Institute and a professor of political science at Western New England University.
The deadline to submit final applications is Nov. 21, and must be hand-delivered.
Vercellotti credited the state's public awareness campaign with growing support among the citizenry.
"As public awareness increases, support seems to go up as well. Public education may play an important role as state and local officials consider locations for the dispensaries."
Locally, several prominent members of the business and political landscape have emerged as contenders to open medical marijuana shops.
Heriberto Flores, president of the New England Farm Workers Council, who has significant real estate holdings downtown and elsewhere, has teamed up with former state Senate Minority Leader Brian P. Lees to form a nonprofit company called Debilitating Medical Treatment Centers. R. Lyman Wood, of Hampden, has pledged $500,000 to back the company if it wins a state license.
That company has already won preliminary approval from the state earlier this year along with 57 other applicants. The state requires that applicants are nonprofit organizations with broader human service missions and are well-capitalized.
Under the law, the state can license up to 35 dispensaries, including at least one but no more than five in each county.
Flores told a reporter this week that his company is moving forward but declined to say which community it intends to target.
"Full steam ahead," he told a reporter during a visit to the Statehouse.
Prospective applicants have bemoaned widespread moratoriums in cities and towns across the Pioneer Valley including in Springfield, Agawam, Longmeadow, Hadley, Hampden, Westfield, Hatfield, Palmer and and Williamsburg. And, local support is critical to applicants.
In Chicopee, officials passed an ordinance allowing medical marijuana shops but included tight zoning requirements. One applicant, Robert Carp of Baystate Alternative Health Care, said previously he toured the entire city and was unable to find a suitable building. However another applicant, Manuel Esteves, has a proposal under review by the City Council for a site at 658 Fuller Road.
Former state senator turned lobbyist Stephen J. Buoniconti, a clerk in C Care Inc., won preliminary approval from the state but said he and his partner are still mulling whether to go forward.
"The application is a behemoth, quite a few people may not go forward," Buoniconti said, citing concerns over the moratoriums, the need for major security details around the facilities required by the state and uncertainty about whether voters may legalize marijuana altogether through a 2016 ballot measure. "But some groups are forging ahead; we're still making that determination internally."
The polling institute results, however, found that respondents' attitudes toward legalizing marijuana altogether were tepid.
Forty-one percent of adults polled said they support full legalization, with 51 opposed and 8 percent undecided.
By Dan Ring
BOSTON -- A total of 22 applicants for medical marijuana dispensaries were eliminated on Monday from competition by the state Department of Public Health.
The process now leaves 158 applicants for dispensary licenses for medical marijuana, down from 181 initial applicants. In addition to the 22 eliminated by the state, one company withdrew.
A total of 22 applicants failed to pass a first phase of vetting by the state that looked at finances, nonprofit status, and possible criminal backgrounds of companies.
In a stiff financial hurdle, applicants needed to demonstrate they have at least $500,000 in liquid capital to pass the first phase.
In Western Massachusetts, one applicant failed to pass muster in Franklin County - Fotia's Inc., none were eliminated in Hampden County and one was cut out in Hampshire County, according to an updated list from the state.
That leaves five applicants in Franklin, 11 in Hampden and five in Hampshire. All cleared the first phase in Berkshire, which has three applicants for dispensary licenses.
“This is a very competitive process and we required applicants to meet high standards to advance,” said DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett in a conference call with reporters. "We are fortunate that Massachusetts has a large field of serious applicants, who are capable of making a significant investment to benefit qualified patients and safeguard communities."
Bartlett said she could not discuss specific applications, but she said applicants were denied mostly because of incomplete applications or a lack of sufficient capital.
Bartlett said final applications for dispensaries will be approved after the start of next year. Once a license is approved, it would take a minimum of 120 days for a dispensary to open.
Applicants are competing for as many as 35 dispensary licenses the state can issue under a ballot law for medical marijuana approved in November. Each county must have at least one dispensary, but not more than five.
If applicants passed the first phase, they are clear to proceed to a second phase, which requires a $30,000 nonrefundable application fee.
Robert Carp, president of Baystate Alternative Health Care, saw his phase one applications approved for Franklin and Hampden counties, but rejected for Hampshire County.
The applicant is unrelated to Baystate Health, the parent corporation of Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware, and Baystate Franklin County Medical Center in Greenfield.
Carp said he does not understand the reason his application was turned down in Hampshire. He said he met the capital requirements for all three applications.
Carp said he is confident in the strength of his applications and the people involved with his company, but he is unsure of the competition.
"It's very hard to determine what attributes another candidate brings to this without seeing their application," Carp said.
Applicants may face difficulties in winning approval of communities for dispensaries.
According to the State House News Service, about one third of the state's 351 cities and towns have approved at least temporary moratoriums on dispensaries including Palmer, Longmeadow, Springfield, Westfield, Hampden, Wilbraham, East Longmeadow, Hadley, Hatfield, Williamsburg, Chester, Egremont and Sheffield.
The state also approved an application by Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers Inc., a group that includes former Senate Minority Leader and former Hampden Superior Court clerk Brian P. Lees and Springfield businessman Heriberto Flores. Former Hampden District Attorney William M. Bennett is lawyer for the nonprofit organization, Flores said.
Flores, who is also president of the private, nonprofit New England Farm Workers Council, said that his medical-marijuana organization will seek to locate a dispensary in a Hampden county community that is not putting up a road block.
"We will submit a very competitive and top shelf program," Flores said, adding that his organization will include a first-rate provider with experience.
The state also gave the OK to the Hampshire application of Kind Medical Inc., which includes former Pittsfield state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo as clerk and Dr. Joseph P. Keenan of Westfield as president.
Nuciforo said he was confident moving forward. He said he was delighted with state approval of the first phase for his nonprofit organization.
"We continue to work in Hampshire county," he said on Monday. "We haven't located a specific property."
David A. Mech, a lawyer in Springfield and director of First Aid Inc., which also had a phase one application approved, said it would be great to have a dispensary in Springfield, but the city has a moratorium.
Mech said First Aid is looking in Western Massachusetts for a possible dispensary.
He said he believes that First Aid has a good shot at winning a license for a dispensary. "We're just looking forward to finding the right place and the community support," he said on Monday. "Wherever it makes sense is where we will put it."
Dispensaries must sell vaporizers, a delivery mechanism for medical marijuana that is seen as safer by many people than pipes or rolling papers. Vaporizers allow people to inhale the chemicals, but they don't produce more dangerous smoke.
Dispensaries can also sell edible forms of marijuana.
Under phase two, applicants must present locations for their proposed dispensaries and growing operations. They also have to demonstrate support from a community.
The dispensaries have to operate a "seed to sale" business. Dispensaries have to grow medical marijuana they offer for sale to people, who need a physician's approval. Customers also need to register with the state.
The 158 applicants who cleared phase one have been invited to apply for the second and final phase of the review process. An informational meeting for phase two applicants will be held Oct. 10 at 1 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, 30 Washington St. in Somerville. At the meeting, public health officials will take up questions on the application process.
Once phase two applications are in, a selection committee will evaluate and score them based on such factors as ability to meet the health needs of registered patients, appropriateness of the site, geographical distribution of dispensaries, local support, and ensuring public safety.
Bartlett said the state does not have a deadline yet for submitting applications for the second phase.
She said full applications for phase one would be posted online by Tuesday.