Nearly 200 prospective operators have so far signaled interest in opening a recreational marijuana business in Massachusetts, state officials said Tuesday, a strong showing in the run-up to the expected debut of commercial pot sales in July.
Following the launch of its online licensing system Monday, the Cannabis Control Commission said 23 companies and entrepreneurs have submitted requests for expedited licensing, while another 167 have started the process.
The commission said it would publicly disclose information on individual applicants, including their names and the types of businesses they want to open, later this spring.
Under state law, two groups will have their applications for marijuana licenses processed ahead of other applicants: medical marijuana dispensaries that are already open or have a provisional permit; and so-called economic empowerment applicants — companies that are led by, employ, or benefit members of communities that had high rates of arrests for drug crimes.
Once qualified by state officials, operators in those groups can submit full applications beginning April 16.
However, applicants must secure permission from officials in the community where they want to operate before winning a state license, and so far many Massachusetts municipalities have expressed reluctance to welcome recreational pot businesses.Of the preliminary applications submitted or in progress so far, 77 came from medical marijuana companies.
The other 113 came from prospective operators who qualify for the commission’s economic empowerment program.
That’s a good sign for the agency’s various efforts to redress the stark racial disparities seen in the past enforcement of marijuana prohibition.