Headed to Boston, marijuana firm admits to errors
False data in bid for permit
A medical marijuana business planning to open in Boston’s Back Bay provided false information to state regulators in its license application, erroneously claiming to have support from state legislators and the district’s city councilor.
In addition, Boston City Councilor Stephen J. Murphy told the Globe Tuesday that he felt he was manipulated into writing a letter on behalf of Good Chemistry of Massachusetts’ application by the company’s consultant, who he said didn’t disclose to Murphy the planned location of the dispensary on Boylston Street. Murphy, who was council president until the start of this year, said he opposes locating a marijuana business at the site between Arlington and Berkeley streets.
Dispensaries had to demonstrate local support, or at least a lack of opposition, to win one of the 20 medical marijuana licenses awarded late last month by the state Department of Public Health.
Good Chemistry’s chief operating officer, Jaime Lewis, acknowledged the misstatements about its local support in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. She said that in a rush to file the company’s application by the Nov. 21 deadline, she inadvertently placed references to Worcester-area state legislators and city councilors supporting the company’s proposed cultivation site in Worcester in the portion of the application that is supposed to describe the local support the company received from Boston leaders.
“We’re in the process of notifying the Department of Public Health so they are clear in what my intent was in the application,” Lewis said. “It was certainly not my intent to falsify any information in there.”
The health department issued a statement Tuesday night, saying: “All Registered Marijuana Dispensary applications are signed under the pains and penalties of perjury. If an applicant is found to have provided false information on an application, the department reserves the right to take any appropriate action.”
The agency has repeatedly declined to release the detailed scores awarded to applicants during the evaluation process, so it’s not known how much Good Chemistry’s erroneous claims boosted its score.
Concerns have also been raised about other companies awarded medical marijuana licenses. In Haverhill, several public officials are disputing claims, made by Healthy Pharms Inc., that they met with the company and gave it their blessing. And questions have been raised about the scant information Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts provided about the credentials of the man who will run its cultivation operation and dispensaries in Mashpee, Plymouth, and Taunton. The firm is led by former congressman William Delahunt, who has a longtime friendship with state public health commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, whose agency awarded the licenses.
Good Chemistry applied for three dispensary licenses in Boston, Worcester, and Salem. It received two, and state health officials told the company it could resubmit its third application at an alternate site in one of four counties where no dispensary licenses have yet been awarded.
In its Boston application, Good Chemistry stated that the company communicated with the city councilor who represents the section of the city where the dispensary would be located, and that he was not opposed to a facility in his district. In fact, no such communication happened, Lewis said.
Additionally, the application states that the company met with the “majority” of the state’s legislative delegation and received “strong encouragement” for a facility in the city. No such meeting occurred with Boston-area legislators, Lewis said.
State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, whose district includes Boylston Street, said Tuesday that he never heard from company officials when they were seeking the license.
“In fact, I was initially contacted by the Department of Public Health on this to let me know they had awarded a license in my district,” Michlewitz said.
Only after Good Chemistry received a license, he said, did company representatives call him for a meeting to present a general concept of their plans.
Murphy, the city councilor, said he felt duped by Good Chemistry because the company’s representative persuaded him to write a letter dated Nov. 20 without disclosing to Murphy where it planned to put the dispensary.
Yet the company’s application includes a copy of the signed lease for the Boylston Street site, dated Nov. 18. The dispensary would be located at 364-368 Boylston.
Murphy said the company was noncommittal on whether it had chosen a location. He added that on Nov. 20, Paul Pezzella, a consultant for Good Chemistry, indicated that the site “may be in a business district close to the center of the city.”
Murphy wrote in his letter that he wasn’t opposed to the license application as long as the business was located at an appropriate site “and upon taking into consideration the views of the surrounding community.”
“I kind of feel used at this point,” Murphy said in an interview Tuesday, adding that he vehemently opposes the plan to put a dispensary on Boylston Street and was upset that his letter appeared to be the only documentation provided by the company to show non-opposition by Boston authorities. He accused the company of trying to “use me as a battering ram to ram this down the throat of people who don’t want this in their neighborhood.”
Pezzella said that he did not mislead anyone and that he wasn’t authorized to disclose the proposed location of the dispensary.
“I would never, ever lie or deceive an elected official,” Pezzella said. “My word is my bond.”
Meg Mainzer-Cohen, president of the Back Bay Association, a group that represents about 400 companies in the neighborhood, said business owners are incensed that Good Chemistry did not bother to reach out to them during the months before or since it submitted its application. She said the group learned of the bid only when the state announced the winning licenses Jan. 31.
“They had from November to the end of January to do some sort of community outreach, to express some desire to have community support and they didn’t,” she said. “They signed a lease without even notifying the neighborhood.”
Lewis, the chief operating officer, said the company decided not to notify neighborhood leaders until after the licensing decisions were announced.
“I just didn’t want to alarm people without a need because we didn’t know if we would get a license,” she said.
New City Council president Bill Linehan said he would hold a hearing soon on Good Chemistry’s plan to help provide residents and businesses with some answers.
“We will invite appropriate city departments and the proponents to vet the operation and its impact on the surrounding community,” he said in a statement.