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State of Massachusetts Approvals the First Medical Marijuana Dispensary

November 11, 2014
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The announcement has finally come: Boston’s first medical marijuana dispensary, run by Patriot Care Corporation, will open near Downtown Crossing sometime this winter. Years of delays and postponements, thanks to the exposure of dispensary owners’ deceptive claims about their credentials, have led Massachusetts citizens to blame the Patrick administration for dragging its feet. But Karen van Unen, chief executive of the state’s medical marijuana program, insists that the strides that they have made toward establishing facilities are heading steadily toward realization. Patriot Care Corp. will also institute dispensaries in Lowell and Greenfield, and another company, New England Treatment Access, is planning openings of its own. Despite NETA’s glitch a few months ago, when Capitol Hill stalled the company’s plans because the director insisted that he had graduated from college when he had not, Brookline and Northampton will herald the founding of dispensaries. In addition, Coastal Compassion of Fairhaven and MassMedicum of Taunton have received go-aheads from the Health Department.

A concern is the state’s ability to serve its counties with the resource of medical cannabis in a balanced way. While fifteen businesses across Massachusetts are preparing for inspection and zoning permission so that they may begin growing the drug, many areas are still under-represented—including Berkshire and Nantucket, among others. The hope of the state’s medical marijuana program is that more applications for dispensary operation will stream in once spring arrives.

The progress of the medical marijuana movement is not without hindrances. Patriot Care was met with suspicion over legal matters in Washington, D.C., and Arizona, and was denied a license in Connecticut. The spokesperson for the company, Dennis Kunian, asserts that they simply want to move ahead with the important work they are destined to do in the city of Boston, specifically at 21 Milk Street.

The history of fabrications by potential dispensary owners on their applications has left many Massachusetts citizens in a sour mood. The Mayor of Boston, Martin J. Walsh, has acknowledged these feelings and has supported the revival of the dispensary process since earlier in the year. According to his office, the City is determined to ensure that all medical marijuana businesses will cooperate with the state’s laws. Still, some residents of Brookline feel that lying on an application, as was the case with NETA’s director, should not be forgiven, even if the offending director has resigned. Also, companies that the state has put on hold in the past should raise a red flag. But NETA believes in their professionalism and expertise in the field of medical cannabis, says representative Dot Joyce.

November of 2012 was when Massachusetts voters decided to legalize marijuana for therapeutic treatment of chronically ill patients. It took until January of this year to give initial permission to twenty out of one hundred applicants seeking the chance to open dispensaries. But when the media and applicants who had been turned away launched a serious conversation about misrepresentations on applications and favoritism in the system, the process came to a halt. By June, the state had refused nine of the twenty applicants who had been accepted originally. A company that had planned to open dispensaries in Taunton, Plymouth, and Mashpee, managed by former US Representative William Delahunt, was among them.

The head executives of the companies that now look forward to fulfilling their dispensary goals are pleased and thankful to have these opportunities. Dr. James Kurnick of MassMedicum and Tim Keogh of Coastal Compassion have expressed their wishes to serve their communities as health care experts, as well as to conduct their businesses with honesty.

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