Several groups vying to open dispensaries that sell marijuana for medical use are urging Massachusetts regulators to require prospective purveyors to provide substantial proof, including sworn affidavits, that they have raised the mandated $500,000 application fee.
More than 70 people packed a state Department of Public Health hearing Tuesday, with several offering suggestions about how regulators can improve the licensing process.
A ballot initiative approved by voters last fall legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes and charged the department with crafting rules to implement the law. Department officials have said they will take applications starting this summer, but have not yet announced a date.
“Having been through the process in Arizona, we saw major problems in that system,” said Kris Krane, managing partner of 4Front Advisors, an Arizona-based consultant that has helped businesses open marijuana dispensaries in other states.
Krane told regulators that at least one Arizona applicant borrowed that state’s required $150,000 application fee, then submitted paperwork showing the company had the funds, but in reality it was heavily in debt.
The company was awarded a license, he said, because the state didn’t adequately check applicant’s finances. Arizona has a lottery system to award licenses.
The Massachusetts system will be merit-based, but regulators have not detailed precisely what factors they will consider to award the licenses. They said that Tuesday’s hearing would help them decide.
Some groups at the hearing suggested the state consider applicants’ ability to create jobs and other opportunities in the communities where they want to open their store.
“We want to be scored on what we can give back to our community,” said Dawn Blake Souza, a retired New Bedford elementary school principal who hopes to open a dispensary in New Bedford.
She said her dispensary aims to donate some of its revenue to local education and community groups that serve children and military veterans.
Souza said the dispensary board would include her husband, who is a retired military psychologist, and Alice Fernandes, a retired MBTA recording secretary who worked on contracts at the transportation system.
State regulators said they will accept written suggestions about the application process until June 28 at 5 p.m.
Suggestions can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
They can be mailed to Medical Use of Marijuana Program, Department of Public Health, 250 Washington Street, 2nd floor, Boston, MA, 02108.