, Salem, MA

February 20, 2014

Denial of marijuana license appealed

Ipswich: Nonprofit still hopes to get one of remaining state licenses

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff Writer

---- — An Ipswich nonprofit hoping to open a medical marijuana clinic on Route 1 has appealed the state’s decision denying it a provisional license.

Joseph McCarthy, president of Ipswich Pharmaceutical Associates, said a hearing with the state Department of Public Health is set for March 6. He said the company, which proposed to grow and dispense marijuana, was denied because a professional cultivation consultant they had planned to use withdrew, resulting in a poor score in the operations and programmatic section of the application.

The facility was proposed for a commercial building at 31 Turnpike Road (Route 1). The company would lease 4,000 square feet in the building, which also houses the Jaquith Carbide Corporation, McCarthy said.

He said the company would grow, process and dispense medical marijuana, including in marijuana-infused products such as baked goods.

“Although we don’t have a license, and we understand there have been complications in the process, we are still moving forward and working on our game plan,” McCarthy said. “We believe in providing the proper medicine and resources for the patient, as well as giving back to the town.”

McCarthy, a disabled Marine veteran and Ipswich resident, said the idea to start the firm came out of 10 years of research and more than two years of planning for the application. It’s also personal: His brother has epilepsy, and five members of his family have been diagnosed with cancer, including his mother and sister, he said.

“They both said to me that if this product was around when they were ill, they would have certainly used it,” he said. “That is what got me started. I like the idea of bringing comfort to those in need.”

Only 20 licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries were awarded in the state, two of them in Essex County. Alternative Therapies Group received a license to open on Grove Street in Salem. Unlike Ipswich Pharmaceutical’s plan, the Salem dispensary will get its marijuana from an outside facility, likely in Amesbury. A dispensary was also OK’d in Haverhill.

Each dispensary applicant was graded by the state on a scale of 163 possible points. All of the successful applicants scored 137 or above, with the highest coming in at 160. Alternative Therapies scored 149. Two groups had hoped to open dispensaries in Beverly but failed, scoring 134 and 135.

Ipswich Pharmaceutical received 105. McCarthy said he believes his firm lost approximately 40 points because their cultivation consultant dropped out.

“We replaced the professional consultant with someone with over 20 years’ experience,” he said.

McCarthy spoke at the Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday night saying the group is committed to making donations to Ipswich schools and an autism foundation if they obtain a license.

The state could have approved as many as 35 dispensaries, so McCarthy said there are still 15 licenses available across the state, and Ipswich Pharmaceutical is hoping to get one.

Voters approved a ballot question in 2012 that legalizes marijuana for medical purposes.