Pot Place Advances Despite Lobbying Questions


James Jajuga, right, during his appearance on WHAV's Open Mike Show

DPH logoThe Department of Public Health (DPH) announced Friday 11 registered marijuana dispensary applicants, including one for Haverhill, will advance after the department says it conducted background checks and information verification.

The decision comes despite a call from Haverhill resident Tim Coco for a “determination as to whether paid lobbying activities on behalf of Healthy Pharms by former Senator James P. Jajuga were properly disclosed.” Coco is president and general manager of WHAV. Secretary of State William Francis Galvin’s office, which regulates lobbying, has neither confirmed nor denied an investigation is taking place.

The 11 applicants would bring 97 percent of the Commonwealth’s population within 30 miles of a registered marijuana dispensary, ensuring patient access across the commonwealth. Healthy Pharms has received a provisional license to open a center in Haverhill.

“This process is designed to ensure only the highest quality applicants advance to meet the patient access and public safety needs of the Commonwealth,” said Karen van Unen, executive director of DPH’s Medical Use of Marijuana Program. “Those advancing have passed comprehensive background checks and investigative reviews. Prior to opening, each must comply with all inspection and municipal requirements.”

During the verification process, investigative firm Creative Services, Inc. (CSI) completed 176 enhanced individual and corporate background checks on investors, staff and related companies, and conducted investigative interviews with applicants to verify all information submitted as part of their applications. Additionally, DPH contacted more than 200 individuals to verify applicants’ representation of local support. The Department also closely reviewed each applicant’s business and operational plans, investor lists, source of funds and investments and information resulting from any background checks.

Jajuga is also a Methuen city councilor and past president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce.

The results of these reviews were used by the executive director to determine which applicants were suitable to advance to the Inspection Phase. Before dispensaries are allowed to open, DPH will conduct inspections on grow-readiness, and processing and retail-readiness to ensure product safety and quality, security, storage and transportation and responsiveness to patient needs. In addition, applicants must complete municipal approval processes, including zoning and permitting before any dispensary is awarded a final Certificate of Registration to open.