Updated March 26 at 6:25pm
Health Care

R.I. Department of Health picks 3 to open medical marijuana compassion centers

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PROVIDENCE – The R.I. Department of Health selected on Tuesday three organizations permitted to open the three medical marijuana dispensaries allowed under state law.

The department selected the Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center, the Summit Medical Compassion Center and the Thomas Slater Compassion Center.

Greenleaf plans to open a center in Portsmouth; Summit’s center is slated for Warwick and Slater plans on a center in Providence.

The centers will offer medical marijuana to the state’s roughly 3,271 patients registered with the health department.

“After a thorough and thoughtful review of all applications, [we] determined that these three applicants were best able to offer safe, conveniently located options for patients currently enrolled in the medical marijuana program,” interim Director of Health Michael Fine said in a statement. “We will continue to work with the compassion centers and providers to assure good outcomes for patients.”

Middletown acupuncturist Seth Bock leads Greenleaf. The Slater Center, which bears the name of the medical marijuana law’s chief proponent, is led by Gerald J. McGraw, who owns J&J Electric.

Dr. Alan B. Weitberg, the former chairman of the department of medicine at Roger Williams Medical Center, leads the Summit team, which counts former University of Rhode Island basketball star Cuttino Mobley as its primary investor.

Annemarie Beardsworth, a spokeswoman for the health department, said the all three organizations must now pass a department inspection, register their staff with the department and secure certificates of occupancy from municipal officials.

The health department selected the group from a pool of 18 applicants, with an internal committee ranking them on a scale with a maximum 100 points. Applicants needed 70 points to be considered qualified in the eyes of health officials.

Beardsworth said an initial review found half the applicants qualified. The department then examined where most medical marijuana patients lived and chose organizations accordingly, Beardsworth said. The organizations were granted permission to operate for two years, after which they will need to reapply.

The selection of the centers comes after the health department rejected in September the initial pool of 15 applicants, saying none was qualified.

Rhode Island is one of 15 states, as well as the District of Columbia, that permit medical marijuana. At least seven states, including Rhode Island, allow dispensaries.

Lawmakers typically say they allow the centers in order to steer patients away from buying marijuana – which remains illegal under federal law – on the street.

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