PITTSFIELD -- For a few short days, Pittsfield seemed close to securing the first medical marijuana dispensary in Berkshire County, but that plan was dashed Friday by the state Department of Public Health.
The department announced that, after further scrutiny of the 20 initial medical marijuana facility approvals issued on Jan. 31, nine of those proposals now have been rejected. An additional review of license applications from the nonprofits hoping to operate the facilities followed disclosures of incorrect or misleading information among the paperwork submitted by several applicants.
None of the five facilities proposed in Berkshire County was selected in January from among 100 proposals submitted for the first Massachusetts licenses to be issued. However, six nonprofit groups were invited to submit proposals for facilities in the areas left unserved -- including Berkshire and Franklin counties.
One of those groups was The Greeneway Foundation, which also had been approved for a facility in Cambridge. The DPH announcement Friday listed that plan as now among those rejected for a license.
A rejection letter to Greeneway posted on the DPH website stated that the nonprofit had failed to satisfy the state's guidelines for having a sufficient level of capital to sustain its proposed facilities. The letter said in part: "The department has determined that the information provided by Greeneway with its applications to show that Greeneway had $1.3 million in funds was misleading, because the supplemental materials submitted by Greeneway reveal that the entire amount was immediately withdrawn the day after the applications were submitted and returned to investors."
Without the Cambridge dispensary and a related production facility planned in Taunton, Greeneway's Pittsfield dispensary would not remain feasible. In any event, the DPH also listed Greeneway Foundation as no longer approved for a provisional license in an unserved county.
The organization had this week won approval from the Pittsfield Zoning Board of Appeals for a dispensary in a leased building at 25 Downing Parkway, and Greeneway's site plan for the dispensary had won city Community Development Board approval.
John Greeneway, CEO of the foundation, could not be reached Friday for comment.
While that nonprofit is now apparently out of the running for a facility license until the next round of licensing next year, the Patriot Care Corp. remains approved provisionally for two proposals in unserved counties. Patriot representatives visited Pittsfield in February and met with city officials, but as of recently, had not filed a proposal at City Hall.
Patriot Care also has a proposal in Lowell that was among the 11 advancing Friday in the DPH process.
According to the DPH announcement Friday, facility plans in Dennis, Salem, Haverhill, Northampton, Ayer, Newton, Lowell, Quincy, Brookline, Brockton and Milford made into the final phase of the process toward approving the first licenses following a statewide referendum vote in November 2012 that legalized medical marijuana.
The next step for those nonprofits is to set up their operations for final inspection by the DPH. The earliest any are expected to open is in November.
None of the projects advancing were in Hampden, Suffolk, Bristol, Berkshire, Franklin, Dukes or Nantucket counties, but the DPH stated that "these 11 applicants would bring 97 percent of the commonwealth's population within 30 miles of a Registered Marijuana Dispensary."
"This process is designed to ensure only the highest quality applicants advance to meet the patient access and public safety needs of the commonwealth," said Karen van Unen, executive director of DPH's Medical Use of Marijuana Program, in a release. "Those advancing have passed comprehensive background checks and investigative reviews. Prior to opening, each must comply with all inspection and municipal requirements."
During the verification process, the DPH said, the investigative firm Creative Services Inc. completed 176 enhanced individual and corporate background checks on investors, staff and related companies, and conducted investigative interviews with applicants to verify all information submitted as part of their applications.
Additionally, according to the release, the DPH contacted more than 200 individuals to verify applicants' representation of local support.
The results were used by the executive director to determine which applicants were suitable to advance to the final inspection phase.
That phase will include "inspections on grow-readiness, and processing and retail-readiness to ensure product safety and quality, security, storage and transportation and responsiveness to patient needs."
Concerning the nonprofits invited to locate in an unserved county, the application process will begin July 9, with the selections scheduled for October, the DPH said.
To reach Jim Therrien:
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