Massachusetts Dispensary Licensing Snafu Rooted In Early Mistakes, Report Finds

Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana in 2012, and it was originally believed dispensaries would open in the summer of 2014. Now, after many months of delay and dozens of lawsuits against the state health department, the Boston Globe has released a report that identifies how things went wrong during the medical marijuana program’s launch.

According to the report, the whole implementation process was, “hobbled by too little time, too many conflicts of interest, and questionable work from highly paid contractors.”

“Massachusetts underestimated the time commitment it would take, and now it’s taking more time because they have had to backtrack,” explains Todd Brown, vice chairman of the Department of Pharmacy and Health Systems Sciences at Northeastern University. Brown served on a committee that was appointed by the state health department to recommend recipients for provisional dispensary licenses.

In June, that committee had to backpedal on nearly half the applications they had initially selected, citing issues that ranged from the companies’ financial structures to the way their background checks had been mishandled during the screening process.

The state originally contracted two different companies to get things underway. ICF International was hired to review and provide consulting on 100 marijuana business applications. Creative Services Inc. was hired to background check the more than 600 people who were involved with said businesses. Neither company, however, was tasked with actually verifying claims made by hopeful marijuana businesses in their applications.

Problems arose when locals felt their enthusiasm for the industry — or lack thereof — had been misrepresented in certain applications. Additionally, one couple who had their Colorado dispensary license revoked due to violations were not initially detected during the Massachusetts background checking process.

With public scrutiny growing, the two companies originally contracted to do the job had their contracts extended to address the growing concerns. The state of Massachusetts has now spent more than $1 million on its flawed system, and more money is yet owed.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts is one of many states gearing up for a 2016 push for the legalization of recreational marijuana.


Photo Credit: Navaneeth KN


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