Massachusetts Approves First 20 Medical Marijuana Licenses to ‘Highest’-Quality Applicants

Soon, patients will have easier access to the drug.

Image via Department of Public Health

Image via Department of Public Health

After months of meticulously combing through nearly 200 requests for permits, the Massachusetts Medical Use of Marijuana Program granted provisional licenses to 20 businesses looking to cultivate pot so that they can sell it to patients with debilitating ailments.

The list, released Friday by the state’s Department of Public Health, includes licenses for marijuana dispensaries to open in Boston, Cambridge, Newton, Salem, Quincy, and Lowell. A full list of the 20 registered businesses awarded licenses to open shops, which will be located in 10 of the state’s 14 counties, can be viewed on the Department of Public Health’s website. A map also indicates where the facilities will be located, complete with green dots to pinpoint their whereabouts.

Four counties did not make the list in this round of license distribution. Licenses were not issued for Berkshire, Franklin, Dukes, and Nantucket counties at this time.

Eight applicants that were not given licenses in their desired county will get another shot at finding a more suitable place to start selling.

“We are pleased to announce that qualified patients will soon have full access to marijuana for medical use in Massachusetts,” said MMJ Program Executive Director Karen van Unen in a statement.

She said only dispensaries with the “highest quality applications” were selected to be a part of the budding new industry, which will likely create hundreds of jobs in Massachusetts. Van Unen signed off on the companies selected by the committee, and  will oversee the entire program, which includes the patient and caregiver registration database expected to be up and running later this year.

A law passed by voters in 2012 to legalize medical marijuana was later crafted to allow up to 35 non-profit dispensaries statewide. Under the conditions of that law, one facility is required in each county with no more than five dispensaries per county. The Department of Public Health finalized the medical marijuana regulations for the state back in May 2013.

Officials split the application process into two phases. Of the 181 applicants interested in opening up a medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts, 100 were considered during the second phase. From there, the 20 qualifying applicants were hand-picked by the Registered Marijuana Dispensary Selection Committee using a point-based scoring method. Factors like local support, and whether the site was appropriate were part of the process.

The process was an expensive one for interested entrepreneurs. In order to potentially sell to qualifying patients, businesses had to put down $500,000 just to be considered for phase one. Then, during the initial application process, interested applicants had to make a $1,500 non-refundable payment for the first phase of consideration, and a $30,000 payment for the second phase.

Moving forward, dispensary owners will have to pay $50,000 in annual renewal and registration costs, as well as a yearly $500 registration fee for each of their employees.

Before shops can start getting their business plan in place and start selling—likely this summer—applicants will also have to prove that their facility is in compliance with rules, regulations, ordinances, and bylaws set by their respective municipalities. “Dispensaries must also pass the MMJ Program’s inspection process prior to receiving full licensure. The inspection includes security, architectural review, growing requirements, and compliance with local zoning and laws,” according to officials from the Department of Public Health.