All About the Green: Money and Medical Marijuana in Massachusetts

potmoneyThough the new Registered Marijuana Dispensaries are all nonprofit institutions, RMD services in fact may be the most heavily “taxed”, per patient capita, nonprofit health service in the history of Massachusetts, in light of the DPH’s steep fee schedule, a fact that in my view played heavily in the murky and disingenuous process of licensing medicinal cannabis in the Commonwealth.

Already, the total revenues from the two phase application process have topped $3.1 million.  This is no doubt higher than it could have been due to the good faith of nearly 100 applicants that the DPH would actually do a proper job of implementing the voter-approved law’s intent, rather than grant about half as many licenses as anticipated and leave the less populous side of the state largely un-served in some sort of sham process full of cronyism & corruption- ie what actually took place.

It gets better though. Since the candidates they invited to reapply were not applying for the counties that didnt get covered in this round of approvals, they can recoup additional application fees PLUS another 10K “change of location” fee for each RMD applicant they’ve forced to change location.

The location change will have other costs associated as well, but the deepest of these may be the social costs to the public, the detriment to the communities effected, and the further delay in treatment for thousands of very sick patients.

As Nial De Mena, a director with the non-approved Manna Wellness in Berkshire County, stated on Saturday, “I don’t believe transplanting a higher scoring team that applied out east that has no ties to the Berkshires and no hard-won community relationships, groups that do not even know the landscape (available real estate in permitted use zones) nor have vision for the facility nor have an idea of the community impact will do a better job than we would have.”

Nonetheless, the fees will keep rolling in to the DPH, all on top of the $1.1 million a year they’ll make on annual registration off the 20 facilities licensed so far.   Add on to that a $50 registration fee per every patient in the state, or $100 permit for “hardship cases,” a number which stands to be greatly inflated if, say, you have one of the debilitating diseased for which marijuana will be permitted and, say, the DPH neglected to approve a dispensary within an hour’s drive of your home.

Gov. Patrick w/ DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, chief architect of the state's licensing travesty.

Gov. Patrick w/ DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, chief architect of the state’s licensing travesty.

Given all the expected revenue, at first glance it may seem crazy they didn’t approve a larger number of dispensaries…… until you consider the  many more millions of dollars from those in the competing pharmaceutical, health care and insurance sectors -all of which stand to lose some revenues from RMDs- that go into electing Massachusetts governors and legislators…