BOSTON (AP) — State public health officials awarded Friday the first 20 licenses to operate medical marijuana dispensaries, the first in Massachusetts under a voter-approved law.
The Department of Public Health reviewed applications from 100 finalists seeking to operate the dispensaries. The law allows for up to 35 dispensaries around the state, and it was not immediately clear when additional licenses would be granted.
The law allows marijuana to be used for certain medical conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Karen Twomey reports
Two outlets were approved in the city of Boston, and others would be in Mashpee, Dennis, Taunton, Fairhaven, Salem, Haverhill, Holyoke, Northampton, Lowell, Ayer, Newton, Cambridge, Brookline, Quincy, Plymouth, Brockton, Milford and Worcester.
The law requires that all 14 of the state’s counties have at least one dispensary, but four — Berkshire, Franklin, Dukes and Nantucket — were not included in the first round of approvals.
Officials said eight other applicants were judged as highly qualified to open dispensaries, but their proposed locations were rejected. Those applicants will be allowed to seek another location in a county that is underserved in the first round.
“Only dispensaries with the highest quality applications were selected to be a part of this new industry, which will create hundreds of jobs while maintaining community safety,” said Karen van Unen, director of the DPH’s medical marijuana program.
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The licenses were awarded after a two-step application process. Applicants were initially subject to background checks and screened for financial viability. Those approved to continue were then judged by a selection committee on a variety of factors including appropriateness of site, local support, and the applicant’s ability to meet the needs of patients, according to public health officials.
A spokesman for the DPH said the licenses are provisional based on final inspections and the granting of municipal permits.
Officially to be known as Registered Marijuana Dispensaries, they will be required under state regulations to pay a yearly registration fee of $50,000.
Regulations approved by the Massachusetts Public Health Council last year allow patients to receive a 60-day supply of 10 ounces of marijuana, though doctors could recommend that some acutely ill patients receive more.
The dispensaries will be subject to an array of other rules, including that they ensure the safety of the drug by testing for pesticides, mold and mildew.
Massachusetts is among 20 states that allow for medical marijuana use, but many doctors remain skeptical.
“Patients should remember that marijuana lacks the rigorous testing of drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration; that claims for its effectiveness have not been scientifically proven; and that it poses health risks of toxins and cognitive impairment, the last condition being especially risky for young patients,” said Dr. Ronald Dunlap, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, in a statement.
The organization also said it was worry that some people seeking marijuana would try to sidestep the state’s requirement that they demonstrate an ongoing relationship with a physician.
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