Holyoke medical marijuana facility rejected after state audit - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Holyoke medical marijuana facility rejected after state audit

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The medical marijuana dispensary planned for Holyoke that passed the state's phase two application process in January was denied its permit after officials had doubts about the business owner following a state audit, according to Karen van Unen, Executive Director of the Medical Use of Marijuana Program.

Eleven medical marijuana dispensaries have been cleared to move forward in Massachusetts, but several others have been rejected after a further review. The only Western Mass. medical marijuana dispensary permit left in the running is in Northampton.

Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers Inc. (DMC) in Holyoke will not receive a permit for several reasons surrounding the listed business owner, Heriberto Flores.

After the approval in January, DMC entered into an administrative services agreement with Partners for Community (PFC), which would have them manage the business in exchange for $300,000 a year, van Unen said.

Flores was listed as the President of DMC, and the only full-time employee listed on their application. Beyond that, Flores was also the Chairman of PFC and received an annual salary of more than $230,000 from the company, according to van Unen.

Flores is also the CEO of a New England Farmworkers' Council (NEF), which is a nonprofit company that PFC was providing services for. PFC paid Flores $450,000 for his work at NEF, but at the same time he was paid $450,000 as a CEO of another nonprofit company, van Unen said.

In May, the state auditor released a report finding that Flores' annual salary was over $900,000, which exceeds the maximum reimbursable amounts under state law. Also, PFC had no time sheets or records that supported the hours that Flores allegedly worked at NEF, she said.

Furthermore, NEF used more than $30,000 of state funds for Flores' travel costs.

Flores refused to take accountability for the audit findings during an interview with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. He made statements like, "I push the envelope," and they were on a "witch-hunt" for me during the interview, van Unen said.

Roach said the audit raised questions regarding whether DMC would operate on a nonprofit basis for the benefit of registered qualified patients.

Based on Flores' own statements and the audit findings, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health determined DMW was not suitable to operate a medical marijuana facility, she said.

DMC can reapply with the state in 2015.

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