Medical marijuana dispensary prospects remain uncertain in the Berkshires


PITTSFIELD -- Prospects for a medical marijuana dispensary in the Berkshires remain uncertain at best, although a nonprofit group rejected last week for a state license plans to appeal that decision.

John Greene, founder and CEO of The Greeneway Wellness Foundation, disputed the decision of the state Department of Public Health in denying Greeneway a medical marijuana permit. The nonprofit had won initial license approval from the DPH in late January, but that was withdrawn on Friday for Greeneway and several other groups.

The nonprofit will appeal to the DPH, Greene said in a statement, adding, "We are confident that our application was submitted in complete compliance with the regulations set forth by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and we will be vigorously pursuing remedies that will allow us to proceed with the siting of our Cambridge location ... ."

Greeneway had received an early approval nod for a facility in Cambridge, along with a conditional permit should it seek to establish a facility in one of the counties currently with no approved dispensary or production project. Those include Berkshire and Franklin counties.

Greeneway subsequently proposed a dispensary at 25 Downing Parkway in Pittsfield and had received local permits from the city. However, the DPH, saying it had since determined Greeneway lacked sufficient financial backing to fund its proposals, withdrew both preliminary permit approvals.

Eight other medical marijuana projects among the 20 initially approved by the DPH on Jan. 31 also were rejected for various reasons on Friday, after further review and investigation by the DPH.

A total of 11 medical marijuana projects have been entered into the final state permitting stage, which allows the nonprofits to set up their facilities for DPH inspection. The nearest to the Berkshires is in Northampton.

In his statement, Greene added that Greeneway "was rejected on the grounds of inadequate financial capital. Due to the intended use of the foundation's funds, many banking institutions have refused to maintain a relationship with [Greeneway], noting the concern of violating banking statutes by accepting money from activities considered illegal under federal statute. As such, we have entered into custodial arrangements in accordance with the [DPH] regulations, and have had the required amount available to our foundation for the entirety of process."

The DPH said in its rejection letter to Greeneway that $1.3 million in an account that was mentioned in the group's license application was removed a day after the permit application was filed with the state and returned to investors.

"We have upheld a standard of transparency with the department to ensure that they are aware of our custodial relationships," Greene said in his press release, "and have voluntarily submitted the bank statements of the custodial accounts to demonstrate our financial viability."

Nial DeMena, a principal in the Manna Wellness Inc. proposal for a production and dispensary facility in Pittsfield, said this week that the nonprofit has ended its bid for a state license. The project was not among those selected by the DPH in January to move on in the licensing process, but Manna had appealed.

DeMena, who also had acted recently as a community representative for Greeneway for its Pittsfield project, said he was saddened by the fact no facility has been approved in the county.

Of the remaining four nonprofits holding conditional licenses to locate a facility in an unserved county, DeMena said in a letter to The Eagle that he will encourage Mass Modicum Corp. to locate here.

Mass Modicum, Greeneway and Patriot Care Corp. are thus far the only nonprofits granted conditional approvals in January to contact Pittsfield officials about local permitting requirements, and only Greeneway applied for city permits, which also require a state license.

The DPH has said the license application process for unserved areas of the state will begin on July 9 and approvals are expected to be issued in October.

The statewide referendum that made medical marijuana legal in November 2012 authorized up to 35 facility licenses and specified one but not more than five for each county.

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