Medical marijuana dispensaries are likely to play a key role in the retail weed supply chain when legal sales finally begin next July, the key lawmakers behind the state’s revamped marijuana bill.
“They’re going to be knocking down the doors for licenses,” bill cosponsor Rep. Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy) predicted, adding that a medical marijuana facility operator in his district has already privately expressed his eagerness to move into the retail market.
Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Medford), another sponsor of the bill, said she expects “most” of the 99 provisionally registered medical marijuana facilities and the five farms already growing medical pot will get into the retail game, ensuring pot shops’ shelves aren’t empty next summer.
Applicants can begin seeking recreational cultivation and retail licenses next April, but registered medical marijuana business will go through an expedited review process because they’ll have already been vetted by the Department of Health.
After they get their licenses, new retailers will have to wait five or six months to get crops ready to harvest and process, so the rich supplies of already operating medical marijuana facilities will be hotly sought after by consumers. The converted medical growers will have ready-to-sell products July 1 next year, while true newcomers won’t be able to start selling their wares for several months, Mariano noted.
The fast-track ensures “there’s going to be enough supply to serve the retail markets” next summer, and keep the state from running low on weed, as Nevada did in early July, Jehlen said.
There are more than 100 medical dispensaries currently building facilities around the commonwealth and 12 already up and running in the state, according to data provided by state Department of Health and Human Services. They will have the “first crack” at supplying marijuana to retailers when they open shop July 1, Mariano said.
“Any of those can apply to cultivate, manufacture or sell in the adult-use market,” Jehlen told the Herald. “And those can all be operational before July 1 next year.”
Jehlen said the licensing process will consider the qualifications of the business’s application, as well as whether the business has secured capital, necessary permits and local government approval.
“Those are going to be the major barriers,” Jehlen said, predicting a “bottleneck” of applicants who will need to battle each other for suitable real estate, financial backers and demand for their product.
There’s no telling how many medical license holders will turn to the recreational business come April, but Mariano said he doesn’t expect pot shops to run out next summer.
At worst, he said, “it could be tight for a while.”