Dispensaries’ sites played role in choice

Top officials at the Department of Health determined that nine applicants were qualified to open medical-marijuana dispensaries in Rhode Island but, in the end, state law limited them to selecting a maximum of three centers to service the steady growth of patients.

The final decision was reached on Tuesday by Dr. Michael Fine, interim director of the Health Department, and the agency’s technical review committee. They were responsible for analyzing and scoring the final 18 applications that were vying to open the state’s first dispensaries, also known as compassion centers.

In the end, health officials selected Summit Medical Compassion Center, in Warwick; The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, in Providence; and Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center, in Portsmouth. The centers submitted three of the most voluminous and detailed proposals of the group that made the final round.

Chris Reilly, Slater’s spokesman, said that Gerald J. McGraw Jr., the center’s top official, began work on his proposal in January 2010, more than a year ago.

“This included a team of advisers and key employees of the center, including experts in the fields of medicine, law, accounting, laboratory testing, architecture and agriculture,” said Reilly in a statement. “The team worked in concert to develop all facets of the application submission.” He declined to say how much McGraw spent.

The Summit proposal is 337 pages, Slater, 241 pages, and Greenleaf, 236 pages. Applications from those rejected, such as Innovative Solutions for Non-Profits in Providence and The Roger Williams Medical Marijuana Compassion Center in Cranston, had fewer than 60 pages. Also, several of the others that were denied had yet to find dispensary sites, or there was uncertainty about where they would grow hundreds of marijuana plants.

“After a thorough and thoughtful review of all applications, the Health Department determined that these three applicants were best able to offer safe, conveniently located options for patients currently enrolled in the medical-marijuana program,” Fine said in a statement. “The Health Department is charged with protecting the health and safety of all Rhode Islanders. We will continue to work with the compassion centers and providers to [ensure] good outcomes for patients.”

Annemarie Beardsworth, Health Department spokeswoman, declined to release the names of the other six qualified applicants or their ratings, saying that it’s “protected information.” She said that there were five people, whom she also declined to identify, on the technical review team. She said that they were “part of the deliberative process and, therefore, confidential.”

The review team did not meet with any of the applicants.

Another key factor in the final decision was the location of the proposed centers. Health officials wanted to make sure that patients across the state could have easy access to the centers. Slater got high marks because of its ability to provide medicinal marijuana to patients in Providence, Cranston, Woonsocket, Pawtucket and Johnston. Those communities are in densely populated Providence County where more than half of the state’s 3,300 licensed patients reside.

Four of the proposed dispensaries wanted to open centers and/or cultivation sites in Cranston, but Mayor Allan Fung, a former state prosecutor, had publicly announced that he did not want the marijuana businesses in his city.

Health officials said that Summit “had the highest pre-decisional application score,” of the 18 applicants, and they liked the fact the center could provide marijuana to more than 600 registered patients in Kent County.

The applicants were required to answer a series of questions such as where their dispensary and cultivation sites would be located, who would run the center and what kind of security measures would be in place. A perfect score was 100 and each applicant had to have at least a 70 to be considered for a license.

Greenleaf’s appeal was that it was the only applicant with a proposal to serve 317 patients in Newport and Bristol counties.

The application for The Chronic Pain Management Centers of Rhode Island in North Kingstown was rejected, but not ignored.

“In identifying locations in different counties the [Health] Department has not overlooked Washington County, and has given due consideration to the location of a dispensary in that county,” Fine wrote.

“The principals in each of the selected dispensaries have varied backgrounds. Dr. Seth Bock, chief executive officer at Greenleaf, has owned and operated Newport Acupuncture and Wellness, in Middletown, for more than a decade. During that time, he has performed more than 40,000 treatments in acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and massage therapy.

McGraw, Slater’s chairman and chief executive officer, is a master electrician who runs J&J Electric, in Warwick, one of the state’s largest electrical-contracting companies with 60 electricians. He has been a licensed caregiver in Rhode Island for several years, providing patients with medicinal marijuana that he grows.

At Summit, Cuttino Mobley, the retired National Basketball Association player, has gained the most attention for being the center’s sole financier. He has committed $4 million to the project.

But the group’s principal figure is Mark J. Bergeron, who will serve as president, medical manager and privacy manager. The Summit application says that Bergeron has spent his professional career “directing and managing large medical practices and clinical research and trial centers in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. He also has eight years of experience in retail pharmacy management.

via : The Providence Journal

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