EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 16, 2014

No follow up meetings yet for medical marijuana applicants

By Douglas Moser

---- — Several failed medical marijuana applicants have had to cancel follow up meetings with the state because the health department has not released to them the detailed application scores two weeks after provisional licenses were issued.

Local applicants whose proposals did not receive provisional licenses have the option of meeting with officials from the state Department of Public Health in a so-called debriefing to review their scores and their applications.

But the detailed scoring sheets, which were used by the department’s selection committee to award licenses, have not been released to any of the applicants. Public health officials have said the detailed scores will not be released to the public until all the debriefing sessions have been completed.

Charles Saba, president of BeWell Organic Medicine, which applied for a license to operate a dispensary in Lawrence, said he has not received the scoring sheets he requested on Feb. 3.

“They replied we would have it in due time,” he said.

BeWell requested a debriefing, which were set at 45 minutes each, though Saba declined to say when it will be. “I personally don’t think it’s going to happen,” he said.

Brandon Tarricone, chief executive of Medicinal Evolution, Inc., of Beverly said he did not receive scoring sheets and decided he could not participate in any meetings with the Department of Public Health without that information. His group was scheduled to have its meeting Friday, but canceled it several days before.

“We were supposed to have a meeting by now, but since they would not release the details of the scoring, we decided to decline it until things are clear and transparent,” he said.

Tarricone said he could still choose another date in the future, if scores are released. More people also have backed out of their debriefings. “Other groups canceled after they found out,” he said.

Those behind groups that did not receive applications said they are frustrated by their interactions with DPH since January and by revelations that information on some applications, including in Haverhill and Boston, is being questioned after licenses were issued.

“We had to follow such detail on the application, and now for DPH to be playing loose is insane,” Tarricone said.

Each of the 100 applicants paid a nonrefundable $30,000 fee when the applications were submitted in November.

DPH contracted with ICF International, a private consulting firm based in Virginia, to score the applications. The overall scores of each application are available on DPH’s website, but details about each question’s scoring, beyond the final raw number, are not available.

“An expert review by ICF International scored the applications in areas including public health, security and strength of business plan,” DPH spokeswoman Anne Roach said in an email to The Eagle-Tribune on Tuesday.

A selection committee chose 20 applicants to receive provisional licenses, which DPH said are still subject to additional inspections before finals are issued on Jan. 31. Two of those, Healthy Pharms in Haverhill and Alternative Therapies Group in Salem, are in Essex County.

Seven groups in total applied for dispensaries in Essex County.

Several Haverhill officials have questioned how their conversations with a Healthy Pharms consultant, James Jajuga of Methuen, were characterized on the group’s application. Questions have arisen around two Boston applications as well.

State House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, has called for an investigation into those questions.

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