The Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Thursday heard an earful from some wicked-pissed prospective dispensary owners who say that they can't find a place to do business in the medical marijuana-legal state.
More than 400 people packed the boardroom of a Holiday Inn in Somerville, Mass. yesterday for the first and only public hearing regarding state licensing.
Massachusetts's laws allow for dispensaries, but the state is still in the process of accepting applications until Nov. 21. By the end of 2014, the state can issue as many as 35 licenses. State law requires at least one dispensary in every county in the state.
More than 130 communities in Massachusetts have banned dispensaries with moratoriums and dispensary owner say the pickings for places that will allow for medical cannabis businesses are slim. The main question in the room revolved around whether or not applicants would have to list final addresses on the applications.
"If that's the case, we are all looking at the same five buildings," Fotis Loulourgas, a prospective dispensary owner, told the board.
Also in the audience was former Mass. state Sen. Stephen Buoniconti, now a prospective dispensary owner. He urged the department to re-state the importance of medical cannabis to communities delaying patient access to legal medical marijuana.
But that probably won't be happening.
"DPH certainly wants to ensure that the applicants do the best job that they can to ensure they are communicating the value of what they want to provide to a community but there is nothing DPH can do to change the local oversight, the local control," Madeline Biondolillo, a director with the state public health department, told MassLive.com.
On the flip-side, city officials across the state say that they aren't stalling or trying to subvert the intent of the dispensary laws. They just want more time to come up with regulations and zoning requirements. Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, tells MassLive.com that dispensary owners are pushing to open without regulations to make their lives easier.
"Communities need time to write detailed and comprehensive ordinances and bylaws to safeguard the public interest when it comes to the sale of a drug that has been illegal up until this year," Beckwith said.
Exactly. Up until this year. It is now legal.