Medical Marijuana Non Profits Vying for Limited Licenses

East Boston Attorney Michael Ford is representing one of the 21 applicants that applied to become registered medical marijuana dispensary operators in Suffolk County last week.

Ford is representing the nonprofit corporation Humanitarian Medical Marijuana, Inc. who is vying for one of five licenses to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in the county as part of the state’s Medical Marijuana law passed last year by voters.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) required completed Phase 1 application forms for Registered Marijuana Dispensaries be hand-delivered on August 22, 2013.

Humanitarian Medical Marijuana, Inc. was one of 21 in Suffolk County and one of 181 applicants statewide.

“I am representing Humanitarian Medical Marijuana, Inc., a group of dedicated and experienced individuals that are committed to providing patients with safe and affordable access to medical cannabis to combat disease pain and suffering,” said Ford. “We hope to have the honor and privilege to be able to serve the community.”

According to the application submitted to the DPH, the president is listed as Franco Vitiello, of Brookline, and Mike Fitzgerald, of Quincy, as the Director of Growth Operations and Education.

Applications will be reviewed in two phases. Under Phase 1, dispensary applicants will be reviewed for, among other things, non-profit status and financial viability. Applicants must also report whether any member of their proposed organization has a felony drug conviction.

Applicants who meet the qualifications in Phase 1 will be eligible to proceed to Phase 2 this fall where a selection committee will conduct an in-depth review and select dispensaries through a competitive process. The committee will evaluate and score Phase 2 applications based on such factors as appropriateness of the site, geographical distribution of dispensaries, local support, and the applicant’s ability to meet the overall health needs of registered patients, while ensuring public safety.

The voter-approved law allows the DPH to register up to 35 non-profit Registered Marijuana Dispensaries across the state, with at least one but no more than five dispensaries per county.

DPH anticipates that the Phase 1 review will be completed by mid September. At that time, the list of applicants who make it to Phase 2 will be made available to the public.

Also New England Wellness Associates, Inc., another non-profit applying for a medical marijuana dispensary license lists East Boston resident Alexis DeYoung as the corporation’s secretary and director.

Last week the city’s Board of Health was asked to consider passing a regulation to allow the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) to permit and regularly inspect medical marijuana dispensaries in the City of Boston.  Boston’s proposal came after the DPH’s Phase I applications for opening a registered medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts were due.

“Medical marijuana dispensaries in Boston raises local concerns that need to be addressed,” said Executive Director of the BPHC Dr. Barbara Ferrer.  “We plan to work closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to make certain that dispensaries are appropriately managed and adhere to local and state regulations. We need to support patient access as well as ensure that neighborhood and public health interests are met, and we believe that an additional local regulation can help accomplish that balance.”

In addition to providing local permitting and inspection authority, a Board of Health regulation in Boston would allow city officials to address issues that are not currently covered by state regulations.  For example, the local regulation would require dispensaries in Boston to deliver medical marijuana to patients who might experience a hardship getting to the dispensary site.   Setting standards for educational materials that patients receive, placing additional limitations on signage and advertising beyond the state requirements, limiting hours of operation, and requiring extra security for dispensaries that plan to operate after dark are additional suggested components of a proposed regulation.

The BPHC would work closely with the city’s Inspectional Services Department to ensure that facilities in Boston are in compliance with all existing state and city regulations governing the operation of dispensaries and distribution of medical marijuana.

In December, the Boston Zoning Commission approved an amendment to the zoning code that would prohibit dispensaries from opening in residential areas and make them a conditional use in most other parts of the city, requiring applicants to appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals. The state regulations also require dispensaries to be at least 500 feet from schools, daycare centers, and other places where children congregate, such as community centers.  Municipalities have discretion to create more stringent requirements for the location of dispensaries.

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