No pot experts on pot panel [Boston Herald :: ]
(Boston Herald (MA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 13--The seven highly paid DPH consultants who performed an "expert review" rating pot shop applicants appear to have no background in the medical marijuana industry, according to a list of their qualifications provided by the state.
The seven members of ICF International's application-review team all have advanced degrees and expertise in fields such as public health, city and regional planning, security, regulatory analysis and business plan review. But none explicitly shows experience in the medical marijuana field, according to a summary of qualifications provided by the Department of Public Health.
DPH paid the Fairfax, Va., firm $335,449 to score 100 dispensary applicants in November and December along a wide range of factors, including their experience "providing health care services, or services providing marijuana for medical use," according to a sample report card. Those point totals factored heavily in narrowing the field to 20 finalists.
Collin Ward, a prospective pot-shop operator, said DPH admitted during a meeting yesterday that the team of four who reviewed his rejected proposal for a Brookline dispensary weren't medical marijuana experts.
"I asked specifically, 'Can you give me some background on the people who were responsible for the scoring, specifically with ICF,'" Ward told the Herald. "Her reply was, none of the four people had specific backgrounds in the field of medical marijuana.
"How can that be? How does that make sense?" Ward added. "If the criteria are based on establishing and running a medical marijuana practice, why wouldn't these people have background in the field?"
State Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, who is probing the DPH's heavily criticized application and licensing process, was taken aback. "We would have hoped we got people who knew what they were doing in this area, especially because there are 17 other states that have gone this route," Sanchez said.
ICF's scoring sheets -- which the DPH is refusing to release until it has debriefed all the applicants -- are also likely to play a major role in a lawsuit brought by two rejected dispensaries. That suit, filed earlier this month, seeks a court order blocking DPH from issuing final licenses.
The Herald has published a series of reports exposing problems with the finalists' applications -- including one that listed a convicted felon as a key financier, and DPH's admission that it chose the finalists before verifying the information they submitted.
ICF International "had the stronger proposal and offered a better value" than its lone competitive bidder for the contract, DPH medical marijuana chief Karen van Unen told Sanchez in a lengthy and vigorous letter defending the process earlier this week.
An ICF spokesman defended the reviewers' work, saying, "We reviewed and scored dispensary applications for the Department of Public Health in a manner that was objective and thorough, and fully adhered to DPH scoring guidelines."
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