Massachusetts has officially opened the door to pot, and there are plenty of people waiting to get inside.
More than 100 applicants filed paperwork Aug. 22 to obtain licenses that will allow them to run medical marijuana dispensaries across the state. Only 35 dispensaries are allowed by state law, so most of the applications will be denied.
“We’re glad that it was a highly competitive process,” said Cheryl Bartlett, commissioner of the Department of Public Health. “It will ensure patients’ access to the medical use of marijuana in the Commonwealth.”
The state should select the winning dispensaries by the end of the year, and they could open their doors to patients a few months later.
Dispensary Selection Process
There are two phases to the selection process. In the first, applicants are subjected to a background check and must prove they have at least $500,000 in starting money. This phase will be completed by mid-September, according to the Globe.
In the second phase, officials will evaluate site proposals and gauge whether applicants are able to provide adequate security and the healthcare services patients need. The state will also determine whether applicants have the support of the local community.
Oppositions To The Process
The last issue will certainly lead to conflict in some communities across the state. A number of cities have tried to ban dispensaries, only to be told by the state attorney general that they can’t go that far. Instead, many of the same places have enacted temporary moratoriums while they try to figure out how to restrict dispensaries with zoning and other regulations.
Some of these towns will likely use community opposition as grounds to keep dispensaries out of as many neighborhoods as possible, making life difficult for operators and patients alike.
“Surely there will be proposals that will be inconsistent with what the community would like, and that will be challenging throughout this process,” said Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. “We believe that local wishes should be given extraordinary weight.”
Supporters of the Marijuana Dispensary Laws
Not every community is opposed to the approach of dispensaries, though. Some towns have said they’re open to regulating them without the need for moratoriums. In Norwell the owners of a non-profit spa are already working with town officials on plans for a medical dispensary.
The Mass-Medi Spa already has $900,000 with more on the way, board members with experience running dispensaries elsewhere, and a license on technology used to create edibles and other pot-infused products.
“We’re not a pot shop, “ Chief Executive Jeffrey Roos said. “It’s a different mentality, I think, than a lot of people have. We’re trying to change some attitudes about the industry.”