The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission won't issue the first marijuana business license until the end of next week at the earliest, and regulators already have more than 50 applications waiting for their consideration.
The commission was given authority on Friday to issue licenses to grow, sell and process marijuana, but the agency's executive director said Tuesday that applications will be ready for commissioners' review "within the next few weeks." The CCC meets next on June 14 and expects retail sales to begin July 1.
Already, 28 entities have applied for 51 business licenses and the CCC has begun to review those applications. The review process includes a background check and a 60-day window during which the municipality in which the business hopes to locate must certify that the applicant has met all local requirements.
"There are a lot of qualifications I would put on this, which is we are waiting for information back from those third parties including municipalities and our background check vendor ... assuming all of those things come back, within the next few weeks we could have a number of applications to recommend for provisional licensure," CCC Executive Director Shawn Collins said Tuesday.
Asked after Tuesday's meeting, CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman said he is "pretty confident" the agency will grant licenses this month, to allow businesses to open on or around the July 1 target date for legal marijuana sales.
"I think we're on schedule. I think that we are comfortable that we are processing applications and at the timeframe that we committed to and the timeframe required by law," he said.
While talking to reporters after the meeting, Hoffman said, "I think we're on track, again whether that means stores are open on July 1 or shortly thereafter, I don't know because we're dependent on third parties ... I feel like we're on track."
In total, 108 prospective marijuana businesses have submitted at least one "packet" of the application to the CCC and 51 have submitted all four necessary packets. The CCC has begun its review of those applications.
Applying for a marijuana business license is a multi-step process and the application is made up of four "packets" that the applicant must submit to the CCC -- an application of intent, a background check, a management and operations profile, and payment of the application fee. If the application is approved, payment of another fee -- the license fee -- becomes the fifth and final step in the process.
Of the 51 applications already under review by the CCC's licensing staff, 18 are seeking to cultivate marijuana, 15 are hoping to act as retailers, 12 want to manufacture marijuana products, three of the applications are to operate a research lab, two microbusinesses have applied for licenses and one person has applied to transport marijuana, according to data presented at Tuesday's meeting.
Those applications are spread across the state: 16 in Worcester County, five each in Middlesex, Norfolk, Bristol and Plymouth counties, four in Franklin County, three each in Hampden and Essex counties, two each in Suffolk and Hampshire counties, one in Berkshire County, and none in Barnstable, Dukes or Nantucket counties, the CCC said. More precise information about the business locations of applicants was not available.
"What [the industry] looks like at this early stage of the process, I suspect, has very little to do with what it ultimately will look like," he said. "So I would urge not to rush to judgment on anything, whether there are a lot in some counties and none in some other counties. I think it's very early in the process. I am very interested, as I think all the other commissioners are as well, about how this map looks as the industry evolves in six to 12 months."
Collins said 38 of the 51 applicants that have submitted all four packets have priority review status -- 35 are registered marijuana dispensary (RMD) companies and three are part of the CCC's economic empowerment program.
Once it begins considering the suitability of license applicants, the CCC plans to alternate between considering RMDs and applications from participants in the CCC's economic empowerment program.
This report was originally published by State House News Service.