By Tom Dalton
---- — A Swampscott healer, a Beverly area musician and a Newburyport businessman head up three of the 16 groups which filed applications with the state to open medical marijuana clinics in Essex County.
The state Department of Public Health released last Friday the names of 181 groups vying for the 35 licenses the state can issue as a result of a new law approved by voters last November.
Nonprofit organizations that receive licenses will be registered to grow, process and dispense marijuana to patients.
Although it will be months before licenses are issued, nonprofit groups are already meeting with municipal officials and scoping out possible sites.
“I’ve met with three groups that expressed an interest,” said Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll. She said they all seemed “very serious.”
Officials in Beverly and Ipswich have held similar meetings.
Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt said he had “several calls” a few months ago, but nothing recently. Even though it proved illegal, an attempt to ban dispensaries in Peabody may be the reason.
None of Cape Ann’s communities — Gloucester, Rockport, Essex and Manchester — have zoning provisions regarding where such a facility can or should be allowed.
The state will screen the large pool of applicants seeking a license on a number of criteria, including financial viability and nonprofit status.
This preliminary review is expected to be completed by next month after which a Phase 2 list will be announced. Those candidates will be scrutinized on such factors as local support, appropriateness of the site and the applicant’s ability to meet the overall health needs of patients.
“Right now, we’re pushing the pause button until the state vets all of the candidates,” said Driscoll.
Driscoll said she has met with three groups including North Shore Progressive Health, which is headed by Lynne McCarren of Swampscott, who described herself as a certified energetic healer.
“We’ve taken cues from the mayor’s office,” said McCarren, 40. “She was very clear about staying clear of residential areas.”
A Salem city ordinance limits the clinics to business or industrial districts, and then only by a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
McCarren said she is looking at a site off Swampscott Road.
Christopher Edwards, 38, an entrepreneur who heads Alternative Therapies Group out of Newburyport, said he is looking at the “technology park area” in Salem, which is also off Swampscott Road.
Although Peabody and other communities attempted to ban medical marijuana clinics, Attorney General Martha Coakley ruled in March that such bans are illegal.
Some communities have declared moratoriums while they explore the issue. Danvers, for example, has a moratorium in place until spring.
Ipswich officials plan to submit an article to the October Town Meeting which would limit the clinics to certain zoning districts along Route 1. The Ipswich Planning Board has already held a hearing on the proposed bylaw. At the meeting, a local man who lost family members to cancer said he wants to open a clinic in the town.
A lot of communities, such as Peabody and Beverly, have no regulations in place. Even so, Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon says he has met with a few interested parties.
Brandon Tarricone, 34, a musician in the Beverly area who founded Medicinal Evolution, said he has teamed with several people, including Dr. Lester Grinspoon, whom his website calls a “world-renowned expert” in the field of medical marijuana.
“Beverly is our first focus because it is our local community,” he said.
Last November, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot question allowing medical marijuana to be distributed to patients with a “debilitating medical condition” who obtain certification from a doctor. The law, which specified cancer, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and other serious conditions, allows a patient to obtain a 60-day supply, or up to 10 ounces, for personal use.
McCarren said she hopes to open a wellness center with a variety of alternative therapies including medical marijuana, which she called “part of the medical self-healing movement.”
Edwards called it a patients’ rights issue. “Patients who are in need of some relief should have this choice,” he said.
Whatever happens in Salem, Driscoll stressed that neighborhood meetings and public hearings will be held, and residents will have lots of opportunities to speak up.
“This is not going to be something that is done quickly,” she said.
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.
Essex County medicinal marijuana clinic applicants Name of applicant Contact person Alternative Therapies Group Christopher Edwards Commonwealth Therapeutics Centers Mark Ehrman Creative Botanicals Development, Inc. John Taxiarchis Good Chemistry Jaime Lewis Herbal Wellness Center, Inc Jeffrey Rice Holistic Health Center Robert Ciardi Ipswich Pharmaceuticals Joseph McCarthy Mass Compassion Corp. Joseph Shelzi Medicinal Evolution, Inc. Brandon Tarricone New England Wellness Assoc., Inc. Julius Sokol North Shore Progressive Health Lynne McCarren Patient Resource Center Joel Gorn, M.D. Planting Hope Kevin Kilduff, Esq. The CAS Foundation Jayne Vining Total Health and Wellness, Inc David Rabinavitz BeWell Organic Medicine Charles Saba Source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health