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DPH approves four more marijuana dispensaries

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced Thursday four additional registered marijuana dispernsaries to advance to the Inspection Phase, including one on Milk Street in Boston. PHOTO BY DANIEL GUAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced Thursday four additional registered marijuana dispernsaries to advance to the Inspection Phase, including one on Milk Street in Boston. PHOTO BY DANIEL GUAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The Department of Public Health’s Medical Marijuana Division approved four additional dispensaries for operation Friday. There are already 11 registered marijuana dispensaries in the Commonwealth, which have already moved through inspection. These four additional ones will be built in Boston, Fairhaven, Greenfield and Taunton.

There must be more than one but less than five dispensaries in each county, according to a Massachusetts state law which was passed in the 2012 election. The cities that will house these dispensaries are part of “open counties,” meaning that the counties in which they lie currently have room for or are in need of dispensaries in order to fulfill the law. Dukes, Nantucket, Hampden and Berkshire counties also have not approved any dispensaries.

“I am pleased with the steady progress we are making and expect the first dispensaries to open later this winter,” said Karen van Unen, executive director of the Medical Use of Marijuana Program. “By expanding access into these additional counties, we are promoting our goals of patient access and public safety across the Commonwealth.”

As the dispensaries begin to open, a medical marijuana regulatory system is taking shape. The online program, which will be used by doctors, patients, dispensaries and law enforcement officials, will help ensure cardholders are taken care of while non-patients are not making illegal purchases.

“Monitoring the processes will give the state a better idea of who this drug can help and why it is a good idea for every state to move forward on medical marijuana,” said Jason Baker, 30, of Back Bay.

These four dispensaries, as well as the existing 11, now enter the inspection process, where officials will review floor plans and security, as well as cultivation operations, storage, transportation and patient-need responsiveness.

While having such a scrutinizing examination system seems like a good thing in regards to keeping marijuana away from those who should not possess it, some people, such as Marc Shepard of New England Cannabis Conventions — which provides a meeting place for medical marijuana businesses, patients, advocates, doctors and supporters to share information, educate and network — have expressed frustrations.

“Since it’s been two years since dispensaries were legalized and there are still none open, it’s hard to consider anything other than an open dispensary a significant step at this point,” Shepard said.

Christina Huang, 48, of Back Bay, expressed concerns about how easy an online system could be to fool for illicit purposes.

“While I think easier access to people who need or want marijuana for medical reasons is good, it opens the door for abuse of the availability, which may not be very well monitored by an online system,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t care less if an adult smokes weed here and there, but I have an issue with it being more easily accessible to children and teens. All in all, I think dispensaries are a good thing, but they must be closely monitored and regulated.”

Ryan Smith, 27, of Brighton, said he does not see a problem either way.

”Personally, I support full legalization,” he said. “I see marijuana as being relatively harmless to users and communities, certainly much less of a public health issue than legally regulated substances like alcohol and cigarettes.”

He also said the negatives are minor when taking into account the revenue that could be generated by marijuana.

“The positive economic impact of legalization is reason enough by itself,” he said. “Regulations should mainly be in place to prevent intoxicated driving and drug use by minors.”

Ally Stanton, 25, of Jamaica Plain, also expressed her concern about the drug falling into the hands of minors.

“As a teacher, I see the kids that do get sucked in,” she said. “It’s a difficult decision, but I think that legalizing it for medicinal use is fine, but there needs to be more done to keep it away from kids.”

One Comment

  1. 15 is not nearly enough. Mass has more people that Colorado – and they have over 200 MEDICAL ONLY dispensaries – this will become obvious in the next year …

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