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Mass. taking applications for drug dispensaries

Massachusetts health officials have launched the application process for nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries.

A law approved by voters last November allows for up to 35 dispensaries around the state to provide marijuana for people with certified medical conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and AIDS.

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Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett said Friday her agency has created a ‘‘solid regulatory framework’’ and is ready to move ahead.

She said there will be a two-step application procedure for selecting dispensary operators.

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In the first phase, regulators will review each applicant’s financial viability and conduct background checks. Applicants must report whether any member of their organization has been subject to a felony drug conviction.

Those who clear the initial screening and pay a fee of $1,500 can move on to a $30,000 second phase, in which a selection committee will review final applications.

The committee will score applications based on factors such as the appropriateness of the site, the geographical distribution of dispensaries, local support, and the applicant’s ability to meet the health needs of registered patients, while ensuring public safety.

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Dispensaries that are ultimately selected will be required to pay a $50,000 annual fee for a certificate of registration. There will also be a $500 annual registration fee for each dispensary agent.

The Department of Public Health will use the fees to cover operational expenses. The voter-approved law is required to be revenue neutral, and fees are established at levels to cover all estimated operating costs.

A growing number of communities have adopted temporary moratoriums or passed zoning rules that restrict where the dispensaries can go.

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