Health & wellness

Massachusetts health department will do additional checks on marijuana dispensaries

State health officials will post a list early next week of rigorous checks they say they will conduct on recipients of licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries amid growing complaints that firms misrepresented support they have received from municipal leaders.

“The department will contact officials whose letters of support or nonopposition were included in provisionally approved applications to ensure the information is accurate and up to date,” states the document, released to the Globe Friday by the Department of Public Health.

“This process is nowhere near done,” Karen van Unen, director of the state’s medical marijuana program, said in an interview.


When the department awarded licenses last month for the state’s first 20 dispensaries, it said in a press release that the companies would not be allowed to open until they demonstrated compliance with municipal zoning rules and other regulations. It also noted that the dispensaries would have to pass a final state inspection, which included checks of the facilities’ security and cultivation systems.

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But in the two weeks since the licenses were awarded, local leaders in Boston and Haverhill have challenged the veracity of letters and statements of support attributed to them in documents submitted by companies that won licenses. Residents in other communities have raised similar questions about local support for proposed dispensaries in their municipalities.

Van Unen said her agency will be meeting with executives from each company starting the week of Feb. 24 to further scrutinize statements made in applications regarding management structure, projected budgets, municipal support, and operating procedures.

“Following applicant meetings, DPH will confirm local siting with the chief executive of each of the host municipalities, further ensuring the validity of all statements of local compliance,” say the agency’s new rules, to be posted next week.

After the agency confirms that applicants have the local support they claimed and reviews each company’s operations plans, it will require company leaders to sign an attestation swearing that the statements and documents are accurate, van Unen said.


The department also plans to establish monthly meetings with local leaders in the communities where dispensaries are preparing to open, to ensure companies are complying with local rules, van Unen said.

“We want to make sure they understand they have a role in this,” she said.

Kay Lazar can be reached at
Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.