Massachusetts launches application process for medical marijuana stores, growing operations



BOSTON — The state Department of Public Health on Friday launched an application process and finalized fees for organizations seeking to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts.

Application forms for the first phase of bidding for dispensaries are available at Completed forms must delivered by hand to the department in Boston on Aug. 22, the department said in a release.

Backers of the law expect dozens of applicantsfor dispensaries and the first dispensary to open sometime next year. Each dispensary is expected to have a retail store and growing operation with security.

“The department has created a solid regulatory framework for this new industry, and now we are ready to move forward with the competitive application process,” Cheryl Bartlett, commissioner of the public health department, said in a statement. “We are committed to a fully transparent process that respects patient needs, while ensuring safe communities.”

After the Aug. 22 deadline has passed, DPH will post the list of applicants and proposed dispensary locations online at

The program allows up to 35 non-profit dispensaries across the state, with at least one but no more than five in each county.

Matthew J. Allen, executive director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, said he is pleased to see the department moving quickly to get dispensaries operating.

“In some other states the process has taken years, so the fact that DPH has started accepting applications just over two months after regulations went into effect demonstrates a commitment within the department to meeting patient needs,” Allen said in a statement.

According to regulations approved by the state, dispensaries will have comprehensive security, strict restrictions on signs, bans on advertising and medical marijuana use on the premises, comprehensive security and seed-to-sale monitoring plans, the alliance said.

Under the first step of bidding, dispensary applicants will be reviewed for their finances and integrity. Applicants must report whether any member of their proposed organization has a felony drug conviction.

If applicants pass muster on the first step, they can move to the second step, when a panel will complete an in-depth review and select dispensaries through a competitive process.

The review panel will evaluate and score phase-two applications based on such factors as appropriateness of the site, geographical distribution of dispensaries, local support, and the applicant’s ability to meet the overall health needs of registered patients, while ensuring public safety.

Prospective marijuana dispensaries will be required to pay a $1,500 fee for a first-phase application, and $30,000 for a second phase application. Both are nonrefundable.

Dispensaries that are selected will be required to pay a $50,000 annual registration fee. There will also be a $500 annual registration fee for each dispensary employee.

Other fees include a $50 annual fee for patient registration, a $100 fee for a hardship permit to grow marijuana at home and a $10 charge to replace a medical marijuana identification card. Caregivers must register, but they will not pay a fee.

The department will use the fees to meet the program’s operational needs, including hiring staff and training inspectors to monitor the industry. The department will also develop an online system for registering and auditing. Fees must cover operating costs for the medical marijuana program, approved at the ballot by 63 percent of voters last year.