State approves proposed Cambridge marijuana facility

State approves proposed Cambridge marijuana facility

Originally published Jan. 31, 2014 in the Cambridge Chronicle.

By Erin Baldassari

Cambridge may become home to one of the first of 20 approved medical marijuana dispensaries in the commonwealth after the state passed Greeneway Wellness Foundation Inc.’s application Friday, Jan. 31. The dispensary will now have to win the city’s approval.

In December, the council approved local medical marijuana regulations, allowing dispensaries to operate in Cambridge and repealing the previously held moratorium. The Greeneway Wellness Foundation was the only applicant out of 100 who had moved onto the second phase of the application process to elect Cambridge as a desired place to locate. Greeneway Wellness CEO John Greene said he is thrilled to move forward with the process.

“We’re excited about Cambridge,” Greene said. “It’s just a phenomenal community, and the voters overwhelmingly supported medical marijuana.”

Greeneway Wellness submitted an application for three separate locations. Only the Cambridge dispensary was approved by the state, but the company was invited to apply for locations in counties where no dispensary was selected.

“Having three dispensaries out of 30 handed out by the state, that’s 10 percent of the industry, and that’s really what we intended,” Greene said. “It’s not about the money. I just feel like for us, we put so much work and so much heart into doing this right; to show people and educate them about the stigmas of the plant and to educate them about all the misconceptions they have.”

The state ranked the applicants using a merit-based scoring system based on “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,” according to the Department of Public Health (DPH). Applicants must also show they can comply with local rules and receive local support.

Greeneway Wellness will still have to go through the city’s special permitting process, making it the first test of the new regulations. Greene said patients shouldn’t expect to see rows of jars filled with marijuana buds lining his walls. His dispensary would look more like a wellness center than a head shop and would also offer acupuncture, Reiki massages, nutritional counseling and other forms of therapy.

Greene said he couldn’t say just yet where in Cambridge he plans to site the dispensary until the leases are signed. But, he said he’s already begun reaching out to elected officials.

Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance’s executive director, Matthew Allen, said the approval of the licenses was “very exciting for patients across the state.”

“I’m impressed with the thoughtful and deliberative process that DPH has led so far,” Allen said. “Provided this stage reflects a similar approach, I have no doubt recipients of the licenses will be well qualified to meet patient and community needs.”

The state approved 20 dispensaries across 19 cities; Boston was the only city with two approved dispensaries. Four counties – Berkshire, Franklin, Dukes, and Nantucket – were not approved for a dispensary in this round. Six dispensary applicants, including Greeneway Wellness Foundation, were invited to resubmit their application with a different location selected.

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