The frustration of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, which is requesting Governor Deval Patrick to intervene in the stalled medical marijuana dispensary licensing process, is understandable. The question, however, is whether the process has been so badly botched that expediting it is impossible without starting over at square one.
Patients suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis and other diseases whose symptoms may be alleviated by medical marijuana gathered at a Statehouse press conference Thursday to complain that no clinics have been opened in the state even though it has been 18 months since medical marijuana was legalized by a referendum vote. The licensing process has been stalled largely because the accuracy of the claims made by some of the groups that received preliminary licenses has come into question, as has the vetting process by the state Department of Public Health.
However, this is not the only problem with the process. Politically connected applicants appear to have been favored, along with eastern applicants at the expensive of western ones. Applicants with experience cultivating medical marijuana were given little credit for doing so in the DPH’s convoluted point system. The goal of opening clinics this summer now appears unrealistic.
At this point it would be wiser to take licensing authority away from the DPH and give it to a legislative committee. Starting over would further frustrate patients, but there may no sorting out the DPH’s mess. Licensing clinics in haste will only mean more problems down the line.