The Rhode Island Department of Health has denied all 15 applications it received in order to register Compassion Centers or medical marijuana facilities, the department announced Friday.
Among the applicants denied was from Dr. Seth Bock, who owns and operates the Newport Acupuncture and Wellness Spa in Middletown.
"It is very surprising," said Bock, who planned to open a Compassion Center in Portsmouth. "We're going to move forward and look at this as an opportunity to learn."
Bock, who intended to open the medical marijuana center at 200 Highpoint Ave. in Portsmouth under the proposed name "Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center," says he does not know the reason behind his application being denied.
"We are still waiting to hear back from the Department of Health about why we were denied," he said. "In the meantime, we will move forward."
According to the Department of Health, the applicants either failed to meet the minimum scoring requirements or they were disqualified from review for failing to comply with the application requirements.
Of the 15 applications received, nine did not meet the minimum scoring requirements of the review process, according to the Department of Health.
In addition, during the review process, the state department received eight formal letters of concern alleging that some applications were not consistent with the requirements set forth either in the application's instructions or in the regulations.
Several complaints questioned why certain applications exceeded the allowable page limit. Other complaints raised issues about zoning requirements, site control, financing issues, and residency requirements.
Upon a second review of the applications, the Department of Health says they found that some of these complaints had merit and after final review, disqualified all 15 applicants. With no qualified applicant to move forward in the process, the Department of Health will reissue the Request for Proposals (RFP) process.
In addition, while reviewing applications HEALTH found inconsistencies in the interpretations of the application requirements and parts of the application that were not in line with the enabling statute.
"This is the first time the department has undergone such a process," said Director of Health, Dr. David R. Gifford. "We are disappointed that we could not select at least one applicant, but are optimistic that by clarifying the application process we will have a clearer process going forward that will yield at least one successful application."
The Department of Health will solicit new applications with the reposting of an RFP in early October. The Department will refund the $250 application fee to each of the current applicants.
Each of the applicants is eligible to apply when the RFP is reissued. The new application will not include page limits and will clearly require applicants to document their not-for-profit status.
A more detailed summary of the changes to the application and process will be available once the Department of Health has completed its revisions.
The criteria used to review the applications are not expected to change, and the timeline will be similar.
The Department of Health has been working with other states with marijuana compassion centers, in particular Maine, regarding how to ensure the application and process yield safe and effective compassion centers.