Mass Med Card

First Marijuana Commercials Set To Air On Comcast In Massachusetts (video)


The first television ad for medical marijuana will soon grace Comcast cable channels across Massachusetts.

The ad is for, a New York-based company, encouraging would-be patients to go to their website to connect with physicians able to prescribe marijuana.

In the ad, a man in an alleyway is trying to sell sushi from his trench coat. The commercial asks: ‘You wouldn’t buy your sushi from this guy, so why would you buy marijuana from him?’

Boston University communications professor Tobe Berkovitz admits that some of the commercials are “really stupid” but there isn’t much that can be done.

“That’s what happens when you have a legal product, it’s going to be advertised,” Berkovitz said. “Because of commercial  freedom of speech, unless they do something totally illegal or inappropriate, it’s going to hit the air.”

The ad is slated to appear on Comcast starting in April in Massachusetts, New Jersey and the Greater-Chicago area. The ad will be run between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Massachusetts is one of 20 states where medical marijuana is legal.

03/07/2014 |

House Speaker – Mass DPH Should Scrap Medical Marijuana Permits and Start Over


DeLeo Delahunt 0 photo

CCT- Citing concerns from elected officials about discrepancies found on the applications for provisional medical marijuana licenses, House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Tuesday night said the Department of Public Health should scrap its work and start over.

DeLeo, a Democrat from Winthrop where there are no conditionally approved marijuana dispensaries, told NECN’s Jim Braude on Broadside that he has heard from “a number of electeds” who told him their names were included on license applications in support of projects without their permission.

Asked whether the DPH should rescind its preliminary approval for 20 dispensaries, DeLeo said, “Yesterday or this morning I would have said, ‘No. They should just take a look at those where they have found errors.’ Today I’m probably saying ‘yes’ because of the fact that I’ve heard other stories today from people who have made applications who said, “Not only did (DPH) not review or try to verify what I said but they didn’t even talk to me in terms of what this process was about.’ ”

Continued concerns about Delahunt

Good Chemistry, which was granted provisional approval for a dispensary in the Back Bay and a cultivation site in Worcester, has admitted to mistakenly including statements of local support from Worcester-area lawmakers and city councilors in a rush to file its application on time.

Similar concerns have been raised about an application for a Haverhill dispensary, and many critics have questioned whether DPH Commissioner Chery Bartlett’s political ties to those associated with license seekers, such as former Congressman William Delahunt, may have tainted the process.

Bartlett removed herself from the licensing process and appointed Karen van Unen as director of the medical marijuana program. Delahunt’s group eventually won three provisional licenses.

Final licenses not yet approved

The Department of Public Health has put all applications under further review and stressed that final licenses have not yet been issued, but Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowitz has said he does not believe the department should have to restart the application process.

Gov. Deval Patrick, in a radio appearance on Friday, also said the licensing process did not need to be restarted, citing nine additional steps before final licenses are awarded, including verification of information submitted on applications. He said the fact that the 20 finalists were made public shows the DPH’s desire to be transparent with the process.

“If somebody lied on their application, they’re not going to get a license,” Patrick said, urging the public to “relax” and defending the steps Bartlett took to remove a conflict of interest.

The governor called the inclusion of unauthorized testimonials from public officials in support of dispensaries on application “very, very troubling stuff,” but insisted that references would be checked before final licenses are granted.

“I think the public should relax. There’s a lot of interest, a lot of money involved in this industry. There’s going to be sour grapes. There are going to be people dropping dimes, the unsuccessful ones. That’s part of it. At the end of it, we’re going to have licensees we can all be confident in,” Patrick said.

Applicants who say they played by the rules are also expressing dismay over some officials such as DeLeo calling for the process to be rebooted.

Jane Heatley, a West Barnstable resident and president of the William Noyes Webster Foundation, received one of the 20 provisional license approvals for a medical marijuana dispensary in South Dennis.

“There are clearly problems with some of the applications and it appears some applicants may not have told the truth on their applications or may have turned in incomplete applications. However, there are also non-profits like the one we have started which have played by the rules and told the truth, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on exhaustive plans and done absolutely nothing wrong. We have not played on political connections or sought to cut corners. Why should we have to ‘start over’?,” Heatley said in a statement.

Heatley told the News Service that the foundation is already signing contracts, interviewing workers and responding to prospective patients seeking relief from pain caused by AIDS or cancer.

“By all means, take away the licenses of those who did not play by the rules – but don’t throw out the good projects with the bad and don’t punish people in pain by making them wait even longer for help,” she said.

Van Unen said this month she expects medical marijuana dispensaries to be open by the summer, and state officials are setting up one-on-one meetings with each approved applicant to explain inspectional processes, security procedures and product testing policies and steps they need to comply with before receiving final certificates of registration.

Provisional licensees are also being urged to connect with local officials and boards of health to work through zoning, permitting and issues surrounding expectations, van Unen told municipal officials at a meeting on Beacon Hill.

The Department of Public Health’s medical marijuana page cites the month of March as the time for the verification phase of the licensing process, including verifying letters of local support and meeting with municipalities to confirm citing and local support.

02/27/2014 |

All You Need To Know About The Western Mass. Dispensaries


Medical Marijuana photo

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has granted licenses to two companies to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Western Massachusetts: Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers in Hampden County and New England Treatment Access in Hampshire County.

Although both facilities plan to open in August, the organizations’ plans are somewhat different.

Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers is run by local owners, including Heriberto Flores, president of the New England Farm Workers Council. It will cultivate, process and distribute the marijuana from a single building in Holyoke.

New England Treatment Access is run by Kevin Fisher, who operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado. It has some local staff, including former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, who is running the company’s government affairs. It plans to open dispensaries in Northampton and Brookline and a cultivation and processing plant in Franklin.

In general, New England Treatment Access’s facility is larger than Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers. New England Treatment Access anticipates seeing 3,900 patients a year once it is fully up and running while Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers anticipates seeing 3,200.

New England Treatment Access anticipates having an inventory of 3,840 pounds of marijuana a year, while Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers anticipates an inventory of 3,348 pounds of marijuana. New England Treatment Access’ cultivation facility will be five times the size of Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers’ and the company will have three times as many staff.

Here is a comparison of the two proposals, with information taken from their applications to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers, Inc.

Who runs the organization?

The board president is Flores. The CEO is Dr. Samuel Mazza, who spent 18 years on the board of directors or the executive committee of Holyoke Medical Center. Mazza does private surgical consulting and advises the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northampton and the Holyoke Soldiers Home.

The clerk is Brian Lees, a former Republican state senate minority leader and Hampden County clerk of courts.

Other top officials include chief financial officer John Motto, who runs the Springfield-based Partners for Community, which oversees several social service agencies; chief operating officer Floyd Brock, the operations manager at a medical marijuana dispensary in Maine; chief administrator Jane Malone, who has worked at Partners for Community and the New England Farm Workers Council; director of public relations Vanessa Otero, who has done community organizing with low-income communities around Springfield; and director of security Richard Marchese, a former Longmeadow chief of police.

Where is the money coming from?

Lenders include the North End Educational Development Fund, run by Flores (which lent $50,000); and WKH Investments in Springfield, which is made up of Lyman Wood ($250,000), Samuel Hammer and Ronald Krupke ($125,000 each).

Where will the dispensary be located?

The company will cultivate, process and dispense marijuana at 181 Appleton St. in Holyoke.

What is the size of the operation?

There will be 12,000 square feet of cultivation space.

In the first year, the company estimates it will see 1,650 patients making over 17,000 visits. By the third year, it estimates seeing 3,900 patients for 64,000 visits.

It plans to handle an inventory of 300 pounds of marijuana in 2015, increasing to 3,348 pounds by 2017.

In the first year, it anticipates earning $3.78 million in revenue from marijuana, marijuana-infused products and other items, with revenues growing by $9.5 million over the next two years. After expenses, the company expects to make $545,000 in profit the first year and $3.7 million the third year. (All the medical marijuana companies are non-profits under Massachusetts law.)

By the third year, the company expects to employ the equivalent of 31.4 full time employees.

What will be offered?

Yes, there will be pot brownies. In addition to traditional marijuana that can be smoked, the company wrote in its application that it will encourage patients to use vaporizers to avoid the harmful effects of smoking. Additionally, products will be offered in the form of olive oil, butter, tinctures and baked goods, including brownies, cookies and chocolates.

New England Treatment Access, Inc.

Who runs the organization?

The chief operating officer/executive director is Fisher, who founded and operates Rocky Mountain Remedies, a for-profit medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado. He is board chairman of the Denver-based Medical Marijuana Industry Group and also owns a Colorado real estate company.

The chief financial officer is Arnon Vered, former head of credit card products and marketing for Banco Santander and former manager of Capital One’s small business department. He spent last year studying medical marijuana administration in Israel. The patient services director is Leslie Laurie, former president/CEO of Tapestry Health, a provider of community-based health services in Western Massachusetts. Frank, a Democrat who represented Massachusetts’ 4th District, will be director of community affairs and government relations.

Other top officials include: Security Director Patrick Dente, who was the manager of facilities and security systems for the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department and Correctional Center; Patient Education/Medical Director Andy Epstein, who has developed HIV/AIDS services in Massachusetts and managed various health care programs in Boston and Africa; and Director of Compliance Laura Harris, a past head of the Colorado Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division.

Where is the money coming from?

The company is backed by Howard Kessler, a Boston area philanthropist who started the financial services company, the Kessler Group, and has previously donated to medical-related causes. Kessler lent the company $9 million.

Where will the dispensary be located?

Marijuana will be cultivated and processed at 5 Forge Parkway in Franklin. It will be dispensed at 296 Nonotuck Street in Northampton.

What is the size of the operation?

The Franklin facility will be 70,000 square feet.

The company anticipates seeing 1,600 patients in 2015, for around 50,000 visits, and 3,200 patients making 96,000 visits each of the next two years.

It projects revenue of $9.8 million in 2015, increasing to $19 million in each of the next two years. After expenses, profit in the first year is expected to be $702,000, increasing to around $3 million each of the next two years.

It plans to handle an inventory of 1,992 pounds of marijuana in 2015, increasing to 3,840 pounds in 2016 and 2017.

It expects to have the equivalent of 93 full time staff by 2016.

What will be offered?

In addition to traditional marijuana that can be smoked, there will be hashes, edible products including beverages, tinctures, topical products such as lotions and bath salts, capsules, pills and vaporizers.

02/20/2014 |

Feds OK Banks Working With Marijuana Businesses


pot money photo – The federal government released a memo on Friday outlining a set of guidelines for banks doing business with legal marijuana operations. The new rules open a path for legal marijuana businesses to conduct normal business and they give banks a “safe harbor” for dealing with those businesses; so long as they follow the government guidelines they will not be prosecuted, even if a business they are banking for is found to be conducting illegal business.

The Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s (FinCEN) guidelines include a requirement of banks to file a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) for their involvement with marijuana-related businesses.

The requirement comes about because since federal law prohibits the distribution and sale of marijuana, banking with marijuana businesses involves funds derived from a potentially illegal activity, regardless of the state the business is being conducted in.

The FinCEN memo specifically references the Cole Memo of August 2013 that outlines specific policies the Department of Justice seeks to enforce. Those include distributing marijuana to minors, preventing marijuana-related funds to be funneled to criminal enterprises, bringing marijuana to states where it is still prohibited and other enforceable violations.

A SAR sounds damning, but FinCEN outlines three SAR categories specifically for marijuana-related business. The first, a “Marijuana Limited” SAR is to be filed if the bank does not believe the business is breaking any laws (besides the federal prohibition).

A “Marijuana Priority” SAR would be filed if the bank believes a business is violating either the Cole Memo priorities or a state law. A “Marijuana Termination” SAR should be reported if the bank feels the need to terminate the relationship with a business to prevent themselves from being caught up in illegal activity like money-laundering.

The guidelines also says that if a state has “implemented strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems” to control the marijuana industry, then those state agencies should remain the primary means of addressing marijuana-related activity.

The new guidelines are not laws however. The DOJ still has enforcement power. Marijuana business owners may breathe a sigh of relief knowing they could get a legitimate bank account for their business, but this memo doesn’t necessarily mean they will.

The memo creates a lot of work for banks if they want to get involved in the marijuana industry, for some banks it won’t be enough to convince them to take the leap. Amanda Averch, director of communications at the Colorado Bankers Association told NBC News the new guidelines aren’t enough assurance.

“We don’t see that guidance as giving banks a full green light to bank these businesses. We feel the only real and lasting solution is an act of Congress,” said Averch.

02/19/2014 |

MA State Urges Medical Marijuana Dispensaries To Offer Delivery


weed delivery photo – Massachusetts’ medical marijuana dispensaries are promising home delivery to patients later this year. But unlike any other prescription, those packages won’t be delivered through the mail.
The option for delivery is seldom available for patients among the 20 states that currently regulate medical marijuana. In Rhode Island, the state’s Department of Health is currently considering a proposal by Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center of Portsmouth to offer daily deliveries.

At a conference earlier this week, Massachusetts’ medical marijuana program director, Karen van Unen, said dispensaries had been encouraged to offer the home service as a matter of choice for patients.

Important option for patients

“Home delivery is an important aspect of the program because not all communities will host dispensaries, and extensive travel can be prohibitive for patients undergoing rigorous chemotherapy treatments, living with disabilities such as paralysis, or suffering with conditions such as ALS or MS,” responded Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance Executive Director Matthew J. Allen.

Van Unen said this week that all applicants granted provisional licenses had expressed an intent to offer home delivery.

The state announced preliminary approval of 20 dispensaries on Jan. 31. A second round of provisional licenses is expected to be awarded in early June. Eight unsuccessful applicants were invited to update their proposals for one of four counties (Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Berkshire and Franklin) still without plans for a dispensary.

In Central Massachusetts, medical marijuana patients will have at least two options: Good Chemistry of Massachusetts in Worcester, set to operate out of a former dance studio on Harrison Street, and Bay State Relief in Milford.

In a statement after the provisional licenses were announced, Bay State Relief’s Armand Riendeau said the state Department of Public Health had done an “exceptional job of crafting a comprehensive, patient-focused medical marijuana program.”

He continued on to say the focus would be on individualized care and attention to qualified patients.

Speaking earlier this month to GoLocal, JoAnne Leppanen, the executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, said many of the early medical marijuana patients in her state were disabled.

In its proposal to offer home delivery, Greenleaf attests to many of its patients being homebound or otherwise having difficulties traveling. The company is asking for approval to deliver within Newport and Bristol counties daily, and Kent, Providence, and Washington counties twice a week, with local trips free and longer trips incurring a delivery charge.

Safety concerns?

Delivery is a reality in some other states, including California, where the state’s Supreme Court ruled last year that towns, cities, and counties are allowed to restrict dispensaries from operating, resulting in many being shuttered. In Massachusetts, the medical marijuana law requires each county to have at least one dispensary. But there’s a maximum of five per county and 35 across the state.

The state’s regulations are also prescriptive when it comes to home deliveries, which dictate that vehicles can’t make any stops and must keep detailed logs.

“Regulations require dispensaries transporting medical marijuana to do so in an unmarked car with randomized routes, monitored GPS system, locked compartment, and at least two dispensary agents, one who must remain in the vehicle at all times,” according to the patient alliance’s Allen. “Most dispensaries will include additional security measures beyond those required by regulations.”

Final dispensary locations not certain

Public health officials made dispensary hopefuls submit sworn statements this week that their applications were accurate after a number of criticisms of some of the provisional license awardees. Good Chemistry was among those receiving complaints after its successful application for a Boston dispensary made claims of local support that weren’t there. The company’s contact person on its application, Jaime Lewis, told the Boston Globe that she inadvertently placed references to Worcester-area state legislators and city councilors in the company’s Boston application.

Meanwhile, others have raised potential conflicts of interest between a firm led by former U.S. Rep. William Delahunt and the state’s public health commissioner. Delahunt’s Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts received licenses for dispensaries in Mashpee, Taunton, and Plymouth.

All announced licenses are still provisional and subject to final approval by the health department over the coming months. The first dispensaries could open late summer toward the end of the year.

02/17/2014 |
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