The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has finished the first round of screening applicants who wish to own a medical marijuana business in the state.
Twenty-two applicants were eliminated during the first round, which examined nonprofit status, finances, and criminal backgrounds. Now, 158 applicants remain to duke it out for one of the 35 medical marijuana dispensary licenses in the state.
DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett could not discuss individual applications, but said that applicants were mostly denied for lack of sufficient capital and incomplete applications.
“This is a very competitive process and we required applicants to meet high standards to advance,” said Bartlett in a conference call with reporters. “We are fortunate that Massachusetts has a large field of serious applicants, who are capable of making a significant investment to benefit qualified patients and safeguard communities.”
Applicants who passed the first round of screening will now move on to the second round, which requires a $30,000 non refundable application fee. This means that the state will earn over $3.5 million from applicants who will be denied.
Under phase two of the application process, applicants must present locations for their proposed collectives and growing operations. They also have to show that they have support from the community. This may prove difficult, as approximately one third of Massachusetts’ 351 cities and towns have approved at least temporary moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries. Additionally, each county in the state must have at least one dispensary but no more than five may open in any given county.
Once phase two applications have been submitted, a selection committee will evaluate and score them based on such factors as the ability to meet the health needs of patients, local support, geographical distribution of dispensaries, public safety, and appropriateness of the location.
The deadline for phase two applications has yet to be set, but the final applications are expected to be approved in January 2014. Once a license is approved, a dispensary will have to wait at least 120 days to open.
According to members of the DPH, the application process so far has proven to be more competitive than they originally anticipated. Bartlett explained, “We had underestimated the number who would apply and would have the capacity to do this.”