Comments PrintPublic Health Commissioner Monica Bharel
The current process to license medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts has “clearly” not worked, the state health commissioner said Wednesday, as she announced a new streamlined system.
“What we have in place now is a confusing, overly lengthy process that has delayed appropriate patients from getting access,” Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel told a meeting of the state Public Health Council, an appointed body of academics and physicians that creates health regulations.
Bharel said the problems that plagued the process under the administration of former governor Deval Patrick made it far more costly than expected, leaving her agency with a deficit of more than $1 million.
“Clearly, this process did not work,” Bharel said.
Bharel said under the new system, marijuana dispensaries will be licensed in a format similar to other health care facilities, such as pharmacies.
Delays drive away some investors
Months of controversy and bureaucratic delays in the Mass. medical marijuana program have driven away some investors.
She said the revised process will be launched May 15, and will establish high safety standards, particularly regarding security and background checks.
Those are two issues that plagued the process under Patrick.
Bharel said as her agency prepares the new guidelines, it will review the current requirement that marijuana companies be nonprofit organizations. Marijuana company leaders and some investors have said that requirement has hampered the licensing process and scared away potential investors, leaving some companies short of cash.
Bharel also said that starting Wednesday, her agency will post updated information on its website about the status of each of the 15 applicants granted licenses for dispensaries, in addition to information about the numbers of patients certified by their physicians and registered with the state to legally use marijuana for medical use. The information is available at www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/hcq/medical-marijuana/.
Patients, marijuana company executives, and unsuccessful applicants have complained for more than a year that the process under Patrick’s administration lacked transparency.
To date, the Department of Public Health has issued two certificates of registration; one in December 2014 to Alternative Therapies Group in Salem, and one on April 3 to New England Treatment Access Inc., to operate a dispensary in Northampton. New England Treatment Access will begin growing marijuana for medical use at a cultivation site in Franklin.
Thirteen other dispensaries are now provisionally …Read More