On Dec. 15, marijuana will be legal in Massachusetts without a prescription. Whether that will affect a proposed medical marijuana facility in Wareham is still up in the air, but developers say their plans haven’t changed despite the uncertainty.
“We’re moving forward…to open a medical cannabis dispensary in Wareham,” said Michelle Stormo, CEO of Compassionate Care Clinics. “Nothing has changed in that regard.”
The company had planned to open a dispensary at 112 Main St., located near Tobey Hospital, earlier this year. However, the state’s lengthy application process delayed the opening.
In contrast, recreational marijuana use was approved by voters essentially overnight. The law passed with 53 percent voter approval on Nov. 8. For those over the age of 21, there will be no criminal penalties for having up to one ounce of marijuana in public. People may possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana at home and grow up to six marijuana plants per person for personal use.
Since 2013, the use of marijuana for medical purposes has been legal in the state. Opening dispensaries has been a slow process as only nine are currently licensed to sell medical marijuana. Many more are in the review process, including Compassionate Care Inc.
Stormo said she’s hopeful the Wareham location will open in 2017 or sooner. Doing so will mark the end of a four-year process.
“We’re staying the course and moving forward with plans,” she said. “The medical piece is not going away.”
While Stormo said she’s confident the new law won’t change her company’s plans, Nicholas Vita, CEO of Columbia Care, said he was less certain how it would affect medical dispensaries.
“It’s very difficult to tell what’s going to happen,” said Vita. “It depends on what state legislators and the governor decides.”
Headquartered in New York, Columbia Care operates medical marijuana dispensaries in six states and Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.
Massachusetts is the only one of those states that has legalized recreational marijuana, Vita said.
In the state, Columbia Care owns Patriot Care, which operates two licensed dispensaries in Boston and Lowell. There are plans to open a third in Greenfield.
“We’ve watched recreational markets from afar and we’ve always chosen to participate in medical markets because we believe in the integrity of the regulatory framework,” said Vita.
While recreational marijuana raises questions, Vita said for now there are no plans to offer anything but medical-grade marijuana for patients who qualify. Qualifying medical conditions include cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, Hepatitis C, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician.
“We’re a medical provider,” said Vita. “There is a very big difference providing access to people with medical conditions and providing access to people who don’t.”
The opening of a local medical marijuana dispensary would appear to have financial benefits for Wareham, according to Stormo.
According to revenue projections the company submitted to the state, the dispensary is projected to take in $3.6 million in profit during the first fiscal year of operation. Then it’s expected to earn $5.1 million and $6.1 million during the second and third fiscal years.
Last year, Selectmen authorized a memorandum of understanding between the town and Compassionate Care. Part of the deal includes having Compassionate Care pay the town $100,000 during its first year of operation, then $125,000 for the second year and $150,000 for the third year.
Stormo said she she’s not concerned that the legalization of recreational marijuana will change those projections.
“We’re not anticipating a change in our sales or patient projections. I don’t think that will impact the town in terms of what we give them,” she said. “In addition to that, there will be a sales tax, which is something the town can benefit from.”
In June, Compassionate Care received a provisional certificate of registration from the Department of Public Health to operate the Wareham dispensary. There are two hurdles left for the company – it must earn a final certificate of registration and then approval to sell.
Currently, Wareham is the only location Compassionate Care Clinics plans to open a dispensary.
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Full Article: Future Cloudy For Medical Marijuana After Legalization Vote
Author: Matthew Bernat
Photo Credit: Carolyn Bick
Website: Wareham Week