158 applicants in 80-plus communities pass 1st hurdle for marijuana license

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The Department of Public Health has released a list of 158 applicants that have successfully passed the Phase 1 screening process to establish a medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts.

Based on an MMA analysis of the list, 81 communities have been identified as potential dispensary or cultivation locations, although the city or town could not be determined for 17 of the applicants. Some proposed locations could change in the second phase of the application process as well.

Under regulations promulgated earlier this year by the DPH, the applicants must now notify the chief administrative officer and chief of police in the city or town in which the dispensary would be located, as well as the county sheriff.

These applicants are invited to submit a Phase 2 application to the DPH, which is due within 45 days.

Phase 2 of the application process will require numerous components, including:

• The county and city or town in which the proposed dispensary would be sited and, if known, the physical address of the site, as well as the physical address of any additional site at which marijuana would be cultivated or prepared

• Evidence of interest in the property at which the proposed dispensary would be sited, which could include a title, option, lease or binding permission to use the land

• A description of plans to ensure that the dispensary is or will be compliant with local codes, ordinances or bylaws of the municipality in which it is located, including any demonstration of support or non-opposition furnished by the local municipality

• A proposed timeline for beginning operation of the dispensary

Phase 2 applicants must submit an application fee of $30,000 with their completed applications.

In August, the DPH received 181 Phase 1 applications from nonprofits seeking to open a medical marijuana dispensary, with interest in every county in the state.

The first stage required applicants to produce proof of nonprofit status, demonstration of financial capacity to establish and operate a dispensary, and background information about each board member associated with the nonprofit. Phase 1 applicants were required to submit an application fee of $1,500.

As part of its review of local bylaws during September, the office of Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that the latest date through which a medical marijuana dispensary moratorium may run is Dec. 31, 2014.

A moratorium allows the city or town to examine its zoning ordinances and bylaws against the context of DPH medical marijuana regulations and make any changes necessary to regulate the locations in which a medical marijuana dispensary may be sited. Numerous municipalities have implemented zoning changes, or are in the process of doing so, to prepare for the implementation of the medical marijuana law.

The State House News Service reports that at least 115 municipalities have passed temporary moratoriums since voters in November 2012 passed a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana.

Under the state’s medical marijuana law, passed by voters in 2012, the DPH may approve up to 35 dispensaries statewide, with at least one, but no more than five, per county.

A list of the 158 applicants, by county, that have been invited to submit applications during the Phase 2 process may be accessed at the DPH website (www.mass.gov/medicalmarijuana). Redacted Phase 1 applications, including the city or town in which an applicant proposes to locate a dispensary, if indicated, will also be available on the website.

Download MMA spreadsheet of successful Phase 1 applicants, including proposed community location (Excel, 55K)
Written by MMA Legislative Analyst J. Catherine Rollins