The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is once again defending the vetting process for medical marijuana dispensary licenses. WBUR has learned that two companies that won provisional licenses hired a former DPH official to help them.
Daniel Delaney worked in high-level positions at the DPH for five years until 2012. He was director of intergovernmental relations and policy affairs and then director of strategic planning. He went on to found a lobbying firm and represented five medical marijuana dispensary applicants — two of whom were successful.
"I didn't advocate specifically on behalf of any specific client," Delaney told WBUR. "So I can see where people would wonder, but I honestly don't feel like there's been a disproportionate impact."
Patriot Care Corp. and Greeneway Wellness Foundation both won licenses — in Lowell and Cambridge, respectively. Both were also invited to reapply for new locations for their two other proposed dispensaries. A third client was asked to seek a new location for one dispensary for which it applied. Delaney will continue on as a paid adviser to Patriot Care.
He said his role has been only to advise his clients on the regulations and how to be strategic in the application process — paying special attention to the areas he knows DPH cares about most. He took part in public hearings and e-mailed DPH with general questions about the application and regulations, he said, but insisted that's as far as his direct involvement went.
"So it's really been largely an interpretive role," Delaney explained. "I've gone out of my way to stay out of contact with the commissioner's office and the general counsel's office, just because frankly, it's a lot of my friends over there. And, you know, they're under so much pressure now to get it right, the last thing I want them to do is be in a position where they have to explain."
In a statement, DPH said Delaney left the agency months before the medical marijuana ballot question passed, and he was not involved in the writing of DPH's medical marijuana regulations or the selection of dispensaries.
Bob Mayerson, CEO of Patriot Care Corp. and former president of Eastern Mountain Sports and treasurer of Staples, is part of an investor group that also runs dispensaries in Arizona and Washington D.C. He said Delaney never approached DPH on his team's behalf and was never asked to.
"I'd like to think that what came through in our application was our expertise and what we bring to the table," Mayerson said. "I think we have a great location. This is a new industry, and having any kind of veil around it is not helpful. So our goal was to really get out and do as much as we could to be as transparent as possible."
That includes gathering valid statements of community support, Mayerson said.
Delaney acknowledged he knows and previously worked closely with four people — non-DPH employees — who served on the dispensary selection committee.
He also pointed out he did work for Forefront Advisors, the Arizona-based firm that consulted several Massachusetts dispensary applicants that ended up winning provisional licenses.