Though the grand openings will not likely come until this summer, 20 medical cannabis dispensaries in Massachusetts received their licenses on Friday from health officials for the Commonwealth. State officials anticipate several more of the 35 total licenses allowed by recently passed legislation to be awarded in upcoming weeks. Statements made when questioned about the criteria used to determine who received the licenses indicated that locations and companies were being chosen, at least in part, based on location.
Efforts are being made to provide the most widespread availability in order to meet patient need. The 20 locations which first received licenses were spread across 10 different counties. There are many more companies wanting to have a chance at obtaining one of the remaining medical cannabis licenses, among them eight companies who received partial approval by officials so far, but fell short of this first round of assignments. The statement made about these eight applicants indicated that they had been asked to consider re-location to one of the under-served counties of the state. It is expected that these companies will be approved quickly, having met most of the requirements for a cannabis dispensary already.
There are significant regulations that come with the introduction of these new Massachusetts dispensaries, not the least of which is the one which requires that they be not-for-profit entities. The 14 counties in the state are all required to have at least one of the new Medical Cannabis facilities, and no county will be allowed to have more than five of them. Just the application process was an expensive one, with interested companies required to shell out over $500,000 before they were even allowed to be entered into consideration for the licenses. Owners will be required to pay a $500 registration fee to the state for each employee that they hire, and an additional $50,000 every year to renew the license. In addition, all of the locations which were chosen are still subject to final inspection for compliance before they receive official approval to open their doors.
Former legislators are even jumping on the medical cannabis bandwagon, as ex-US representative William D. Delahunt applied for and received three of the licenses. His company, Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, will be opening locations in Taunton, Mashpee, and Plymouth. People from all different backgrounds are coming together on the realization that the new cannabis industry could potentially make a significant impact on the economy of the Commonwealth. In terms of jobs created as well as tax and fees collected, many project that there will be some impressive figures for proponents to toss around when lobbying for full legalization.
With the ball now rolling, many expect the process to proceed quickly in order to ensure widespread access to the patients who will benefit from the opening of these businesses. The eight companies asked to re-locate will almost certainly receive their licenses in short order, which leaves only seven more spots. There were around 200 initial applicants, with that group narrowed to 100 in the first phase of the selection process. There is clearly no shortage of people vying for those final seven spots. Public statements from representatives of many of those companies have been polite and completely supportive of the decisions made by state agencies so far. Nobody wants to take the risk of ruining their chances of getting one of the last slots. At least so far, the fight to be among the first medical cannabis dispensaries in Massachusetts has been a relatively clean one.
By Shannon Malone