Boston officials praised a decision by the state health department Friday to revoke its preliminary approval for two medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, but some residents expressed concern that ailing patients will not be able to readily access the medicinal plant.
The dispensaries proposed for the South End and the Theatre District were rejected because a new state review found inaccuracies in their applications, according to letters the state’s top marijuana regulator wrote to the companies.
No other Boston dispensaries were among the 11 given provisional certificates on Friday, but the state will allow several companies to reapply for Boston locations starting July 9. Dispensaries were green-lighted in neighboring Brookline, Newton, and Quincy.
“I wrote a letter to the Department of Public Health back in April asking that if there was anything found to be inaccurate in either of the Boston applications, that those applications be disqualified,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement. “I am pleased that DPH heard my concerns and acted accordingly.”
The Boston dispensaries were the focus of controversy from the moment the state announced in January that they had made the initial cut. City officials and neighbors of the site Green Heart Holistic Health & Pharmaceuticals had proposed at 70 Southampton St. expressed concern about its proximity to several methadone clinics. Good Chemistry of Massachusetts initially proposed a dispensary on busy Boylston Street, but later switched its location to 57 Stuart St., in the city’s Theatre District after complaints about its proposed Back Bay location.
City councilors chided both companies for claiming in their license applications that they had officials’ support, with Councilor Tito Jackson denying he backed Green Heart, as the company had claimed, and Councilor Stephen J. Murphy alleging he was manipulated by Good Chemistry’s consultant into writing a letter of support.
Jackson said on Friday he was pleased state regulators knocked Green Heart out of the running. “It would have added to an area that already has its fair share of medical treatment,” he said, noting that over 2,000 people a day receive methadone treatment in the neighborhood.
In a letter to Andrew DeAngelo, chief executive officer of Green Heart Holistic, Karen van Unen, executive director of the state’s medical marijuana program, said the company was deemed unsuitable because it provided misleading and incorrect information on its application by omitting the fact that DeAngelo’s brother and business partner, Stephen, a “strategic advisor” to Green Heart, had pled guilty in 2001 to a felony marijuana charge.
Andrew DeAngelo said Friday he was disappointed that the state had denied the company’s application. “Our only regret is that we will not have the opportunity to bring our pioneering best practices . . . to the patients and greater community of Boston,” he said.
In a letter to Good Chemistry, van Unen said the company was denied licenses for dispensaries in Boston and Worcester because it had provided misleading information about its support from local officials in all three communities.
Good Chemistry’s chief operating officer, Jaime Lewis, had acknowledged the misstatements about its local support in an earlier interview with the Globe, and said that while rushing to file the company’s application, she inadvertently placed references to Worcester-area state legislators and city councilors supporting the Worcester site in its Boston application.
The company released a statement Friday saying, “To the extent that we made any mis-statements in any of our application materials, we disclosed them as soon as we were aware of them.”
Murphy said the health department’s decision was “justified” because Good Chemistry was dishonest in its application. The health department is “acknowledging the flaws in the process by righting the earlier wrongs.”
On Southampton Street Friday afternoon, some city residents and workers said they supported opening a dispensary in Boston but believed placing a dispensary there would have exacerbated safety issues.
“We have enough problems here,” said Artan Mertiri, owner of New Market Pizza and Grill, which sits across the street from where Green Heart wanted to place a dispensary.
Helen Pelati, a 24-year-old front desk associate at a Best Western just blocks away, said it is likely homeless people in the area would have harassed ill patients.
“An older person with cancer could be bombarded by someone who wants to get their pot,” she said.
But Andrew Hazard, a 26-year-old who was visiting the area Friday, said he has severe back pain and had hoped to use the dispensary.
Without a Boston location, many people needing medical marijuana will be inconvenienced, said Matthew J. Allen, director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance.
“Not having a location in Boston is a huge gap in patient service,” he said. “DPH said they’ll start a new round of registration in the fall, but that’s not soon enough for patients suffering right now.”