State health officials on Friday approved a highly-coveted license for Boston’s first medical marijuana dispensary, selecting Patriot Care Corp, which is already set for a similar facility in Lowell.
In addition to the approval to operate the medical marijuana dispensary at 21 Milk Street in Boston, Patriot Care also won permission for a facility in Greenfield, making it the only company slated to run three dispensaries in the state.
Two other companies received permission Friday from state health regulators to open medical marijuana dispensaries: Coastal Compassion in Fairhaven and MassMedicum in Taunton.
In a news release, Karen van Unen, who runs the state medical marijuana program, said, “I am pleased with the steady progress we are making and expect the first dispensaries to open later this winter.”
Voters in November 2012 approved a ballot initiative that legalized marijuana for medical treatment, paving the way for the state to select up to 35 non-profits to open dispensaries around the state, with at least one in each county, but no more than five.
But the state’s contentious, high-stakes selection process has been delayed by controversy, and it wasn’t until June that the Department of Public Health awarded the first provisional certificates to 11 applicants for dispensaries in only half of the counties in the state.
The approved companies still must pass inspection and win local zoning approval before they can begin growing marijuana.
In January, state regulators announced that they had granted preliminary approval to 20 of 100 applicants.
But the state launched a more thorough examination of the companies after the media and losing applicants raised concerns about misrepresentations, financial arrangements, and conflicts of interest involving several of the companies, as well as the backgrounds of their principals.
Many of the losing applicants filed lawsuits against the state in an unsuccessful bid to force the state to halt the selection process and begin again.
In June, Department of Public Health officials announced that they had eliminated 9 of the 20 applicants that had initially won approval, including two companies that had proposed dispensaries in Boston.
Reasons for rejection ranged from questionable corporate structures that appeared to violate requirements that the companies operate as non-profits; misrepresenting local support; and ommitting one investor’s drug conviction.
Shelley Murphy can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.
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