By Chelsea Rice
Boston.com Staff | 12.31.14 | 4:34 PM
If all goes well, Salem will have the first medical marijuana dispensary in the state to officially open for business.
Massachusetts public health officials Wednesday granted the state’s first certificate of registration for the growth and distribution of medical marijuana to Salem’s Alternative Therapies Group, Inc. (ATG).
ATG can now begin growing marijuana for medical use at its cultivation site at 10 Industrial Way in Amesbury. A dispensary site at 50 Grove Street in Salem has also been approved to begin operations.
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At this point, the company has entered the inspection phase of the process, during which the Mass. Department of Public Health’s Medical use of Marijuana Program officials will conduct unannounced inspections to ensure “safe patient access” to medical marijuana.
“Selecting dispensaries that meet our high standards takes time, but ensuring a launch of this new industry the right way for the people of Massachusetts is a top priority,” said Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz.
The state’s medical marijuana distribution licensing process has faced huge amounts of criticism in 2014. Although Massachusetts voters approved the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for medical treatment in November 2012, the state did not award licenses to open medical marijuana dispensaries in the state until January 2014, when the first 20 licenses were awarded.
Percentage of Population of Massachusetts Within a 25 Mile Radius of Inspection Phase RMD Locations
Massachusetts Department of Health
Since then, a recent Boston Globe investigation has revealed that a state contractor hired by the health officials to conduct the review of applications “ran out of time to conduct thorough checks of some applications.” The state set a goal that these businesses open by summer 2014, but because of the lack of initial oversight in the review process, some of the dispensary licenses have been retracted due to issues with the legitimacy of their business proposals, the public support of the neighborhoods where they were opening, and conflicts of interest. Public health officials have spent recent months conducting more thorough reviews of each of the applications for licensure.
“I am very pleased that ATG has received the first Certificate of Registration in the Commonwealth,” Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said in a statement. “From the outset the team at ATG has been forthright and professional. They went …Read More