20 Dispensary Licenses Approved in Massachusetts

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Massachusetts awarded its first medical marijuana dispensary licenses on Friday, approving 20 applications in a move that will jump-start the state’s MMJ industry.

The first centers could start serving patients as early as this summer, though in other new medical marijuana states it has taken longer than expected for centers to open.

Marijuana Business Daily expects the market to initially generate about $40 million annually in revenues, a figure that could grow substantially as more dispensaries are approved and open. Other estimates range from $5 million to $80 million or more in annual sales.

The number of licenses awarded was much lower than many expected. The state’s medical marijuana law authorizes up to 35 nonprofit dispensaries, but Massachusetts health officials rejected dozens of applicants who had made it to the final round. It told others that they can amend their applications once they find a new location in a county without an approved dispensary. So more licenses will likely be granted later this year.

The state initially received almost 200 applications before whittling down the number to 100.

Among the winners: former Congressman William D. Delahunt, whose nonprofit operation – Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts – was approved to open three dispensaries in different cities. Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts also received a 160 application score, the highest given out by the state.

This will surely be controversial, as many applicants were fearful that health officials would favor bids by Delahunt and others with deep connections in Massachusetts politics.

Just two dispensaries were approved for Boston in Suffolk County. No other town will get more than one dispensary initially, though four were selected for Middlesex County – which has the highest population of 1.5 million – in the towns of Ayer, Cambridge, Lowell and Newton.

Officials did not approve a dispensary in four counties: Berkshire, Dukes, Franklin and Nantucket.