By Bethany Bray
---- — All but two of the applicants hoping to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Essex County made it through the first phase of the state’s application process.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced this week that 16 of the 18 Essex County applicants are eligible to apply for a second selection round later this year.
The two who did not make the cut were Lynne McCarren of Swampscott, who submitted an application for North Shore Progressive Health Inc., and Robert Ciardi, who had submitted applications for HolistiCare Health Centers in three different counties.
McCarren, who describes herself as a healer, previously told the Salem News she hoped to open a wellness center and was eyeing a site off Swampscott Road in Salem.
“Applications were denied for a wide variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, failing to incorporate as a non-profit or a lack of demonstrated financial viability,” the department of public health said in a press release this week.
Ciardi’s three HolistiCare Helath Center applications — in Essex, Middlesex and Plymouth counties — were all denied. Ciardi is managing partner and cofounder of Boston-based Provident Healthcare Partners.
Massachusetts voters passed a ballot question to legalize medical marijuana last November.
The newly passed law allows for a total of 35 medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, with no more than five in each county. The centers may grow, process and provide marijuana to patients who have a prescription from a physician.
Applicants who made it through the first selection phase this week will be able to apply for phase two later this year — a deadline is yet to be announced, said David Kibbe, DPH spokesperson.
The second round deadline will be sometime after an Oct. 10 public forum in Somerville, planned to disseminate more information to applicants and allow them to ask questions of state officials.
The DPH expects to make the final selection of dispensaries “shortly after the new year,” Kibbe said yesterday.
Dispensaries that make the state’s final cut in 2014 will still need to seek local approval from municipal boards, such as planning or zoning, before they could open.
Applicants will not be required to give an address of where they could open in the second selection round, Kibbe said, but they will need to demonstrate that they have local support and would comply with local bylaws and expectations.
Presumably, this means applicants would at least name the town where they are hoping to open.
“Once Phase 2 applications are in, a selection committee will evaluate and score them based on such factors as ability to meet the health needs of registered patients, appropriateness of the site, geographical distribution of dispensaries, local support and ensuring public safety,” the DPH wrote in this week’s press release.
Statewide, DPH received 181 applications for phase one in late August, 158 of which were deemed eligible to move forward to phase two.
Applicants had to pay a $1,500 fee to be considered in phase one; the application fee to be considered in phase two is $30,000.
“This is a very competitive process and we required applicants to meet high standards to advance,” DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett said in the release. “We are fortunate that Massachusetts has a large field of serious applicants, who are capable of making a significant investment to benefit qualified patients and safeguard communities. While no decision to deny an applicant was taken lightly, we wanted to ensure that those who advance could demonstrate the ability to operate a successful non-profit Registered Marijuana Dispensary.”
Medical marijuana was approved by 63 percent of voters in the November election.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.
Essex County medicinal marijuana dispensary applicants
These Essex County applicants are eligible to apply for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's second selection round later this year:
Source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health