Massachusetts health officials have shown green light to four more medical marijuana dispensaries in the state including the first in Boston.

The state's Department of Public Health has given provisional approval to three companies. Mass Medicum Corp. in Taunton, Coastal Compassion Inc. in Fairhaven, Patriot Care Corp. in Boston and also in Greenfield.

No medical marijuana dispensaries have opened yet in Massachusetts, but there are already 11 approved marijuana medical dispensaries in the inspection phase and Patriot Care Corp. will be the only firm to operate three dispensaries in the state.

"I am pleased with the steady progress we are making and expect the first dispensaries to open later this winter," says Karen van Unen, chief executive of Massachusetts' medical marijuana program.

The health department's decision to allow Patriot Care Corp. to operate three dispensaries has attracted a lot of criticism and critics believe that the company has received special treatment from the state's health department.

To avoid further criticism, Massachusetts officials revealed that they will let another company open dispensaries in locations such as Northampton and Brookline. The state is yet to select and open dispensaries in Nantucket, Hampden, Dukes and Berkshire.

Dennis Kunian, spokesman of Patriot Care Corp., revealed that currently the firm does not hold any timeline for the opening of the dispensary in Boston. He revealed that the company is holding talks with some Boston city councilors as well as neighborhood groups regarding the dispensary.

Kunian indicated that the company is excited to receive the approval, but there is still a lot of work to be done before the dispensary is opened in Boston.

Patriot Care applied for a dispensary license in Connecticut but remained unselected by the regulators. The company also encountered questions and legal challenges regarding a medical marijuana dispensary's operation in Arizona and Washington, D.C.

Martin J. Walsh, Mayor of Boston, had previously urged that the dispensary approval process should be restarted following allegations that a few winning applicants did not have enough credentials and provided misleading and false information. These allegations had made it appear that state officials were supporting such companies.

Kate Norton, press secretary of Walsh, issued a statement on Friday, Nov. 7, which said that the city of Boston will work with the medical marijuana dispensary partners "at the state level" and will ensure that dispensaries in Boston fulfil all guidelines and regulations. 

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