Mass Alternative Care received preliminary approval to open three medical marijuana dispensaries in Western Massachusetts in 2016.

Those dispensaries still have not opened. But this month, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission approved Mass Alternative Care for “priority certification,” which gives the company a leg up in applying for a recreational marijuana license.

Michael Schneider, an attorney who works with Mass Alternative Care, declined to speak to a reporter about the company’s plans.

Mass Alternative Care is not unique. All 20 registered marijuana dispensaries that were given priority review status for the recreational industry have yet to open their medical dispensaries.

Patient advocates are raising concerns that the companies will go straight into the recreational market and will not serve patients. They say awarding priority to unopened dispensaries violates Massachusetts’ marijuana law.

“This is how they’re going to kill the medical program,” said Michael Latulippe, development director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, which advocates for medical marijuana patients.

But state regulators interpret the law differently. And advocates for the marijuana industry say they hope – and anticipate – that dispensaries will sell to patients even if they also sell to the general public.

James Smith, an attorney and founding partner at Smith, Costello and Crawford who represents cannabis companies, said medical marijuana likely will make up around 25 percent of a business that sells both medical and recreational products.

“Given that you spent a fortune to build a store and cultivation, why would you not want to carry a complete supply of products?” Smith said. “It would be like a beer and wine store that decides to not carry red wine.”

While any adult can buy marijuana from a recreational store, a patient can get the benefits of the medical marijuana program — tax-free marijuana, a financial hardship discount, access to certain doses, a record

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