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The Rhode Island Health Department is now once again taking applications from those interested in opening medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, and officials said they are hoping to avoid problems they faced with the first round of proposals — which were all turned down.
The new round of dispensary applications (the form can be downloaded here) will be open until noon on November 12, and those interested can submit their plans to operate compassion centers that sell marijuana to patients in the state-run program, reports W. Zachary Malinowski of The Providence Journal.
“Our goal has been, and continues to be, assuring the safest and most effective compassion center for patients and the public,” said Dr. David R. Gifford, Health Department director. “We want to keep this process moving.”
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|Dr. David Gifford, R.I. Health Department: “We want to keep this process moving”|
The Health Department announced in a surprise move last month that all 15 applicants seeking to open the state’s first marijuana dispensary had been turned down.
The state had previously announced that it was trying to open at least one and up to three centers that would sell cannabis to authorized patients in the state’s medical marijuana program.
There are 2,380 patients in Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program, which typically grows by about 50 patients each week, according to the Health Department.
The decision to turn down all 15 initial applicants upset many of the prospective dispensary operators, as well as proponents of the medical marijuana program, who said it did not take into account the needs of patients who use cannabis to control pain.
Seven “formal complaints” were lodged against several of the applicants, according to Health Department spokeswoman Annemarie Beardsworth. She said two recurring complaints were about applicants who exceeded the 25-page limit (many of the applications were hundreds of pages in length), and one applicant who submitted a proposal to run a for-profit center (state law requires the dispensaries to be nonprofit organizations).
In the new application, there is no limit on paqe length. (Pity that couldn’t have done that in the first place, instead of forcing seriously ill patients to wait months for safe access!)
The new application also asks for three-year, rather than two-year projections, on the “schedule of personnel,” meaning how many employees may be working in the dispensary in 2014.
The new application also calls for the submission of 10 hard copies of the application and one electronic, PDF version. The old form required five hard copies and, once it was accepted, an additional 25 hard copies.
Beardsworth said that once the dispensary applications are submitted, the Health Department will take between four and six months to review the proposals and make its decisions about which center or centers will be allowed to operate.
There will be a public comment session scheduled after January, and Beardsworth said she hoped that the dispensary selections will be made in early March 2011.
“We are trying to do this as quickly as possible, but we also need to be thorough as well,” Beardsworth said. “Hopefully, we can get through this process without any complaints.”