White Coat Notes

Most applicants for medical marijuana dispensaries approved in first round review

The vast majority of the 181 applications competing to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts were approved Monday to continue on to the second and final round, when the number will be whittled to just 35 licenses.

The state public health department announced that 158 applications were eligible to continue in the competitive process. The initial round of applicants were reviewed for non-profit status, financial viability and compliance with other application requirements.

“This is a very competitive process and we required applicants to meet high standards to advance,” state public health commissioner, Cheryl Bartlett, said in a statement.

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“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. “While no decision to deny an applicant was taken lightly, we wanted to ensure that those who advance could demonstrate the ability to operate a successful non-profit Registered Marijuana Dispensary.”

Twenty-two applicants did not meet the criteria to proceed in the process and one applicant withdrew, the state said.

Applications were denied for a wide variety of reasons, state officials said, including failing to incorporate as a non-profit or a lack of demonstrated financial viability.

When the next round of applications are in, a selection committee will evaluate and score them based on a variety of factors, officials said, including their ability to meet the health needs of registered patients, appropriateness of the site, geographical distribution of dispensaries, local support, and public safety.

Voters last fall approved a ballot initiative that allows state health officials to register up to 35 non-profit Registered Marijuana Dispensaries across Massachusetts in the first year, with at least one, but no more than five dispensaries per county.

Applicants will now be asked to demonstrate local support during the state review process, and must show that they can comply with all municipal rules, regulations, ordinances and bylaws, officials said.

The health department said it will hold a meeting for the remaining applicants to answer questions about the process going further on Thursday, October 10, at 1 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, 30 Washington Street in Somerville.

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