EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

August 25, 2013

Andover eyed for medical marijuana dispensary

16 sites proposed for Essex County out of 181 applicants submitted to the state

ANDOVER — A Newburyport-based company has filed an application with the state Department of Public Health to open a marijuana dispensary in Essex County — possibly in Andover.

The company, Alternative Therapies Group, is one of 16 applicants for a dispensary in Essex County. In all, 181 applications were submitted to the state as part of the first phase of review of all the proposals.

Chris Edwards, president of the nonprofit company, confirmed yesterday that his organization filed an application and that the dispensary may end up in Andover.

“We are looking at a number of locations and have letters of intent on multiple properties,” Edwards said. “We are looking at a number of locations in a number of communities, but Andover is still a strong possibility.”

Last fall, a medical marijuana ballot question passed overwhelmingly in the state. In Andover, 61 percent of voters approved the proposal. State regulators recently issued guidelines for the businesses, which may only sell marijuana to people who have a doctor’s prescription based on a diagnosed medical problem.

Thursday was the deadline for Phase 1 application forms. The list of applicants includes the name of the nonprofit corporation, a contact person and the county of preference for the location. The list does not have specific addresses, so it is unclear if any other medical marijuana dispensaries have been proposed in Andover or anywhere else in the Merrimack Valley.

According to state health officials, applications will be reviewed in two phases. In Phase 1, dispensary applicants will be reviewed for, among other things, nonprofit status and financial viability. Applicants must also report whether any member of their proposed organization has a felony drug conviction.

Applicants who meet the qualifications in Phase 1 will be eligible to proceed to Phase 2 this fall, when a selection committee will conduct an in-depth review and select dispensaries through a competitive process. The committee will evaluate and score Phase 2 applications based on factors such as appropriateness of the site, geographical distribution of dispensaries, local support and the applicant’s ability to meet the overall health needs of registered patients, while ensuring public safety.

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