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205 Priority Applicants Vying For Recreational Marijuana Licenses Can Move Into Next Phase

In all, the commission received 320 applications for priority status -- 205 were approved and 115 were denied. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
In all, the commission received 320 applications for priority status -- 205 were approved and 115 were denied. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
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The Cannabis Control Commission on Tuesday wrapped up its review of priority applicants for recreational marijuana businesses.

The commission put registered medical dispensaries (RMDs) with operational and provisional certificates granted by the Department of Public Health, as well as so-called economic empowerment applicants, at the head of the line for the coveted industry licenses. In all, the commission received 320 applications for priority status.

Of those, 205 were approved and 115 were denied.

Those who were denied by the commission often missed the April 16 deadline, or failed to meet the requirements for consideration.

Of the applicants with priority status who have been given the green light, 82 are RMDs, while 123 are economic empowerment applicants.

The applicants now need to submit various “packets” to get their licenses. Once completed packets are received by the commission, candidates must also pass a background check before the group makes its final decisions. Part of the deal, too, is that applicants need to have a "letter of agreement" signed by the community where its proposed cannabis business will be located.

Thirty-five applicants have submitted the required packets and now await background checks. Of those candidates, 25 are RMDs licensed by the DPH, five are economic empowerment applicants and five are general applicants.

The packets include the following: an application of intent; information for their background checks; a management and operations profile.

Following the Cannabis Control Commission meeting this week, Chairman Steven Hoffman fielded questions from reporters addressing a number of topics about the licensing process going forward. He also spoke about other industry topics, such as concerns around cannabis supply and metrics for success.

Below is a transcript of those questions and Hoffman's answers: 

Reporter: Chairman, we've talked a bit about the issue of supply in July, and you’ve talked about you're expecting a sort of sparse market. But where things stand? Will the RMDs that convert and the recreational shops that open, will they have enough marijuana in July to supply the demand?

Chairman Steven Hoffman: We don't know. What we do know is that we're working with the Department of Public Health to ensure that they're able to move inventory from what is currently [a] RMD to the recreational adult-use market.

We have put restrictions in terms of how much has to be kept for medical use, but that's the process we're working ... with DPH right now to allow that transfer. We are going to give guidance over the next week or two for the entirety of our seed-to-sale system, including how that initial inventory gets set up. And so, we're just waiting to have everything worked out with the Department of Public Health. So I can give you more specificity — probably over the next week or two — but I think we'll be able to manage that process.

Reporter: How will we be able to measure success, say by mid-July, end of July. What are you going to be looking at?

Hoffman: Well, we're working right now — it's a good question and I'm going to remind my executive director — we're working on the set of metrics that we're going to hold ourselves accountable to, [that] we're going to publish, and we're going to let people make their own judgments in terms of our success.

Our view is that we want to hit our deadlines, which we have done thus far. We want to run a fair and effective and thorough licensing process. We want to make sure that anybody that’s set up for business is somebody that we are comfortable will be successful and run a professional business.

And we'll talk about the metrics going forward in terms of things like how much tax revenue we're generating. The accessibility. Obviously, metrics of public health and public safety. So, we're working on that right now. Again, we'll share that. Our intent was to actually have that done by the end of May. So I think we're hopefully on that timeline. So we'll go through that. But it's the things that you would expect. But right now our focus is running, as I said, a thorough and effective licensing — and fair — licensing process.

Reporter: Any progress on banking?

Hoffman: I continue to work that issue. I met with some of the Association of Credit Unions a couple of weeks ago. We have a meeting coming up with the Mass Bankers Association. People have reached out to me that have non-banking solutions that we're not going to recommend or not, but I want to understand what they're going to offer to the marketplace, so I feel like we're making progress, but I don't have a solution.

Reporter: Where do things stand in terms of regulations for Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket?

Hoffman:  I'm not totally familiar, so I'm going to defer to [Cannabis Control Commission Executive Director Shawn Collins].

Shawn Collins: We're folding into the final regulations, as far as allowing applicants to have product on the island, with a disclaimer that it had not been tested. So they're folded into our final reg[ulations]s.

Reporter: There's been some concern about the ability of the economic empowerment applicants to make it through the municipal part of this process. Is the commission thinking about doing anything to make that easier for them, including perhaps giving guidance to municipalities?

Hoffman: Well, I think both. Giving guidance to the commissioners — we've been meeting with both cities and towns and with regional planning associations on a regular basis, and we'll continue to do that around the state. We're also structuring a social equity program, part of which is training and part of which is helping people get through the licensing process. So we are going to offer whatever assistance we can.

Ultimately, as I've said many times, it is at the discretion of cities and towns. So we can’t mandate that. But we certainly can talk to make sure that they understand how our regulations are structured and the incentives in those regulations, and then offer some assistance to people going through that process with the cities and towns.

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Steve Brown Twitter Senior Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's senior State House reporter.

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