Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and House Speaker Robert DeLeo have now joined the growing chorus for a do-over on the application process for medical marijuana clinics and Governor Deval Patrick should insist the state Department of Public Health do so. The process is such an embarrassment, that a do-over may be inadequate.
The failure to choose any Berkshire County applicants among the original 20 groups accorded provisional licenses raised suspicions of an eastern Massachusetts bias, which were heightened when the DPH invited groups outside the Berkshires to apply for licenses in the county. It then emerged that the applications were not thoroughly vetted and some applicants may have submitted false or at least misleading data to the DPH.
The Boston Globe revealed last week that a nonprofit company led by former U.S. Congressman William Delahunt, which received three licenses to operate medical marijuana clinics, intends to give half the revenue to a management firm controlled by Mr. Delahunt and his business partners in the dispensary. That would be roughly $24 million over three years, based on the dispensary's revenue projections. The reason referendum voters approved the clinics was presumably to provide assistance to patients who could benefit from medical marijuana, not to make a few businessmen wealthy.
Officials are now asserting that it was always their intent to fully investigate applicants after the awarding of the provisional applications. This would definitely be an instance of putting the cart before the horse, but if the licenses awarded are indeed only contingent upon further vetting it will be that much easier to abandon the whole process. "It makes sense for DPH to take a look essentially from scratch because this is important that we do this right," said Ms. Coakley last week. "You have to do the background checks and vetting that seems to not have been done."
An even better idea would be to form a legislative committee to award the licenses. With the process bungled once there is a little assurance that it will be done properly a second time.