PITTSFIELD -- One of the Berkshire County applicants for a medical marijuana facility license expressed frustration Friday after the state Department of Public Health approved no licenses for facilities farther west than Northampton.
"My general reaction is that I'm frustrated with what DPH has done by not selecting one of the Berkshire groups for approval," said Michael Marino, whose nonprofit, Prospect Lake Inc. proposed a facility on Gas House Lane in Great Barrington. "Our understanding from the outset was that there would be at least one approval in the county."
The DPH announced that 20 medical marijuana facility licenses had been approved but only two in Western Massachusetts -- in Holyoke and Northampton -- and none in Berkshire or Franklin counties, or on Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket.
Another six nonprofits from among the 100 still involved in the licensing process were invited by the DPH to consider a facility in one of the underserved areas rather than their originally proposed site.
"From the outset this process has been very unfair to those of us in the small counties," Maino said in an email. "The way they have done this review, they want us to score as well as Essex or Suffolk county people. Well yeah, you don't want to compromise security or patient care, but how are we supposed to compete with groups who can justify spending [$200,000] on their application because they have 1 million people in their county?"
The nonprofit applicants were scored by the DPH's selection committee on such aspects as corporate structure, business experience, financing, security plans, location and other factors. In the Berkshires, Manna Wellness Inc. scored highest at 120 points for a site off West Housatonic Street in Pittsfield. Prospect Lake received 112 points for a Great Barrington site, Greenhouse Dispensary in Lee received 102 points, and Total Health & Wellness 81 and 76 points respectively for sites in Pittsfield, on Dalton Avenue, and in North Adams.
The 20 facilities selected scored 137 points or higher out of a possible 163.
Manna Wellness officials said in an email they were sad about the decision and are still trying to process the information. Attorney F. Sydney Smithers, who has represented Total Health & Wellness at Pittsfield site permitting hearings, said he had not heard from his client and could not comment.
Marino said the DPH licensing process seems to ensure that larger entities that applied for licenses elsewhere could now turn to the Berkshires but without having any local ties. "That seems ridiculous," he said, adding that like Manna Wellness, "We are not pursuing a license in this state or another. Our roots are in the Berkshires. Our staff is here."
The DPH, in a statement on the agency website, indicated announcements about other license approvals could come soon if one of the high-scoring nonprofits proposes a site in an underserved area of the state. The first medical marijuana production and dispensary facilities are expected to open later this year or next year, pending local permitting and a final inspection and approval by the state of the facility and operation.
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