With Dukes County passed over for a medical marijuana dispensary in the first round of applications, local and off-Island groups are refocusing their efforts on opening a dispensary on the Vineyard.
Patriot Care Corp., an organization already awarded a provisional license for a dispensary in Lowell, is considering applying to open a dispensary on the Island. Meanwhile, Vineyard groups turned down during the first round are hoping for a second chance.
In late January, the state Department of Public Health recommended 20 provisional licenses for dispensaries, with none recommended in Berkshire, Franklin, Dukes and Nantucket counties. Under the state medical marijuana bylaw approved by voters in 2012, each county must have one dispensary but no more than five. The state can have a maximum of 35 nonprofit, registered medical marijuana dispensaries.
Six groups, including Patriot Care, were invited to reapply for a location in the counties without a dispensary. Four applicants seeking licenses on the Vineyard were not selected by the state.
Representatives from Patriot Care, which operates medical marijuana dispensaries in Arizona and Washington D.C., attended the monthly meeting of the Vineyard Chiefs of Police Association Tuesday morning. The company representatives emphasized security — which law enforcement said was a concern — and working with the community.
“We’re very interested in looking at a location here in Dukes County,” Patriot Care’s chief executive officer Robert Mayerson told the group. The company is also looking at Berkshire and Franklin counties; they can be awarded up to two more licenses.
The company it is still exploring where the dispensary would be located on the Island and whether the marijuana would be grown on-Island or not.
Mr. Mayerson, the former president of Eastern Mountain Sports and treasurer of Staples, said the company has been in business for about a year and has had no compliance issues.
“Part of the application is to work closely with law enforcement and the local community,” he said. The company focuses on highly regulated, medically-oriented facilities, he said.
Mr. Mayerson used his iPad to show the police chiefs a live feed from one of the company’s two Arizona facilities. Not much was happening, the chiefs noted — it wasn’t yet 9 a.m. in Arizona. He also showed the chiefs a security plan for the planned location in Lowell.
George Agganis, the director of security, said security would be tight, including ballistic grade glass and control of the product from seed to dispensing the product.
Because marijuana is a cash business, the dispensary would have an ATM.
“Compliance and security are at the top of the list,” Mr. Mayerson said. “Also patient care.”
Mr. Mayerson said the window was short for applying, with the applications due by May 2 and notification expected by June.
While a location hasn’t been determined, Mr. Mayerson said they have spoken with some of the groups that applied from the Vineyard. He mentioned that West Tisbury is a potential location.
As for where the marijuana would be grown, Mr. Mayerson said that, too, was unclear. While the organization has a growing facility in South Hadley, “on the other hand we need to make sure we can transport it here in a secure fashion, not just over land but over water,” Mr. Mayerson said.
Dukes County Sheriff Michael McCormack mentioned concerns about substance abuse, noting a high percentage of people in the local jail battling those issues.
Mr. Mayerson said the group would work closely with local substance abuse organizations “because we feel we have responsibility in that regard.”
“There’s plenty of money to be made in this business,” Oak Bluffs police Chief Erik Blake said. But he noted the Vineyard’s seasonal tourist economy. “Our community is not Massachusetts, it’s all over the world,” he said, adding that medical marijuana can be a breeding ground for concerns like drug dealing and other drug use.
“It’s the law in our state,” said Chief Blake, who is also the president of the Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association. “The fears that are out there are real for us.”
Oak Bluffs police Lieut. Timothy Williamson said he was concerned about people using fake identification, something the police already combat in regards to underage drinking.
Mr. Agganis said a valid medical marijuana identification card is need to get into the building, and then another check is done before they are allowed into a secure waiting room. Once people reached their 60-day limit, they cannot receive any more marijuana until the 60 days are up.
“Certainly this table is going to have security concerns,” Sheriff McCormack said.
Mr. Agganis said concerns would be incorporated into security plans.
“We’re not advocates,” said board member Nicholas Vita, adding that he came around to the idea when he saw how his mother’s rheumatoid arthritis was helped by a marijuana cream. “We’re not here to say everyone has to agree with us.”
Mr. Agganis said he was happy to be a resource to Dukes County whether or not they apply for or are awarded a license in Dukes County.
Chilmark police chief Brian Cioffi asked whether the business can be viable. Mr. Mayerson said that with an estimated 250 to 300 qualified patients on the Vineyard, it can.
A Harvard resident, Mr. Mayerson told the Gazette later he is familiar with the Island from spending summers here with his family. He said Patriot Care’s dispensaries would carry a full range of products allowed by the state, and they would be looking for a local team to run and manage the facility.
He said it was important to talk to law enforcement. “If you don’t have that conversation it doesn’t get done,” he said. “We need to know where they stand.”
Meanwhile, one Vineyard applicant went before the West Tisbury selectmen last week in an effort to reapply for a license here.
Geoffrey Rose of West Tisbury, doing business as Patient Centric of Martha’s Vineyard Ltd., told the West Tisbury board of selectmen last Wednesday that his application is undergoing a second review by the DPH.
At Mr. Rose’s request, the selectmen approved a letter of nonopposition to his proposal. He made the request last year and the board took no action.
Mr. Rose said the letter was a critical component for his application. “By not providing a letter of support you’re almost assuring on off-Island applicant will come here,” he said.
Dispensaries were selected based on the quality of the applications and given a score on a scale from zero to 163 points. Mr. Rose said the threshold to qualify for a dispensary was 137 points; he received 125 points, the highest of all four Dukes County applicants.
Mr. Rose said he met with an attorney at the DPH on Feb. 14 and learned that a letter of nonopposition or support would boost his score.
“It’s about keeping this local and having people like myself be involved in this and committed to this,” he said.
Town administrator Jennifer Rand said another Dukes County applicant, Susan Sanford, is scheduled to come before the selectmen in two weeks to ask for a similar letter of nonopposition.
Ms. Sanford, doing business as Greenleaf MV Compassion Care Inc., also proposed opening a dispensary in West Tisbury and received a score of 118, the second highest among Dukes County applicants.