Three companies seeking to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Allston and East Boston are urging the state to reconsider their proposals, months after they were rejected in favor of two other Boston applicants that have drawn heated opposition.
Two of the losing companies are seeking approval from Boston zoning officials for their proposed dispensary sites in a bid to strengthen their proposals — though they would still require a state license to operate. They are also continuing to lobby neighborhood groups for support.
“No one has a license right now so we feel everyone is kind of in limbo,” said Robert Edelstein, chief operating officer of Centers for Alternative Medicine, which asked the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals in March for a permit to operate a marijuana dispensary at 220 William F. McClellan Highway in East Boston. “We feel we have the perfect location.”
Edelstein said he hopes to garner enough support to convince the state health department to grant his company a license if the two applicants that won preliminary approval to open dispensaries in Boston don’t pass final muster.
And even if they are approved, the state may eventually award up to five licenses in Suffolk County.
Another losing applicant, Compassionate Organics, made a similar request to the Zoning Board this month to open a dispensary at 140-144 Harvard Ave. in Allston. The board has yet to schedule a hearing on the two requests.
Compassionate Organics also recently obtained a letter of support for its site from the Allston Civic Association.
‘There is so much uncertainty, I would like to see this process started over.’
“We are continuing to get community support because we realize that is the variable that’s needed,” said Geoffrey Reilinger, chief executive officer of Compassionate Organics. “I’m optimistic because right now the Department of Public Health is in a really tough place, particularly in Suffolk County.”
The health department has faced a barrage of criticism since it announced Jan. 31 that it granted preliminary approval to 20 of the 100 applicants vying for the first marijuana dispensary licenses to be issued by the state since voters approved cannabis for medicinal use in November 2012. Some of the winning applicants, including the two selected for Boston, were accused of providing false or misleading information to the state that made it appear that they had support from elected officials.
A handful of losing applicants have filed lawsuits against the state in a bid to block the awarding of licenses and have complained that officials failed to thoroughly vet the applications and used a flawed system to grade them.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who urged state health officials last month to reject the two winning applicants for Boston if their applications are deemed inaccurate, said during a telephone interview that he believes the state should restart its selection process.
“If we are going to be siting medical marijuana facilities in Boston, at the very least we should make sure they are properly graded and are the right companies for that location,” Walsh said. “There is so much uncertainty, I would like to see this process started over.”
Another losing applicant, MA Care Connect Inc., which had proposed a dispensary at 440 William F. McClellan Highway in East Boston, is waiting for state health officials to respond to its complaints that the company was given low scores for answers on its application that were identical to those that were provided by competitors and received higher scores.
“I don’t even think they know how to go about investigating or justifying any of this stuff because it is not justifiable,” said Johan Pontin, president of MA Care Connect, who said he was shocked that his company’s proposal was rejected and is urging the state to reconsider it.
Pontin said it’s clear that some of the winning applicants are still scrambling to find a location for a dispensary because three companies that were granted preliminary approval by the state approached MA Care Connect about taking over its East Boston site. He said he turned down the requests, and declined to identify the companies.
Representatives of the two companies that won preliminary approval to open dispensaries in Boston say they remain committed to sites they have leased in Roxbury and Boston’s Theater District.
David Kibbe, a spokesman for the Department of Public Health, declined to comment on the Allston and East Boston proposals or whether any of the losing applicants will be reconsidered for a license.
He released a statement saying the department “is committed to striking the appropriate balance between ensuring patient access and public safety, and right now we are focused on verifying all information and operational plans submitted by the applicants currently in the verification phase.”
The two companies granted preliminary approval to open Boston dispensaries, Good Chemistry of Massachusetts and Green Heart Holistic Health and Pharmaceuticals, remain in the verification phase, he said.
“We are confident we will get a license,” said Andrew DeAngelo, chief executive of Green Heart, adding that he hopes to persuade neighbors and elected officials who have opposed the company’s plan for a dispensary at 70 Southampton St. in Roxbury that it “can bring benefits not harm to that community.”
DeAngelo said his company had done preliminary searching of other locations, but was heavily invested in the Southampton Street site and didn’t know whether it could even find another suitable spot for a dispensary. He said the company had not intended to deceive anyone when it told the state it had the support of elected officials who denied giving such support, including Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson. DeAngelo said he has met with Jackson and apologized.
Good Chemistry, which dropped its plans to open a dispensary on Boylston Street after facing stiff opposition from neighbors, is now committed to a site at 57 Stuart St., according to a spokeswoman.
“We continue to work with that neighborhood to share our intentions and our protocols . . . to show the community that we are a good neighbor and understand their concerns,” the spokeswoman, Karen Schwartzman, said. She said the company inadvertently made a mistake on its application about the extent of its support from Boston officials and is hopeful the state will award it a license.