The state process has four key elements:
1. Submitting an application, which has its own required set of four packets;
2. Receiving a provisional license;
3. Receiving a final license;
4. Receiving a “commence operations” notice, which allows the store to open after three calendar days.
Aside from NETA, two other Greater Boston stores have received some form of licensing: Sanctuary Medicinals LLC in Brookline and Garden Remedies Inc. in Newton. Both stores have provisional licenses, which is step two in the four-step process.
No Greater Boston store, NETA excluded, has a final license — the next to last step before they could open the doors and start selling recreational pot.
The time spent in the initial “submitted application” phase of the process, where all Boston applicants currently sit, is up in the air. Submitted means just that: It doesn’t mean it’s complete or that it’s been vetted.
Once the application is confirmed to be complete and accurate, the company is required to have a background check, and have its host city or town confirm to the state that it meets the bylaws or ordinances. Then, the commission has 90 days to accept or deny the completed application.
Although a company notifies the commission when it submits an application, “the time it takes to complete that process depends on the initial completeness of the applicant’s submitted packets,” according to a commission spokesperson. So an applicant could easily sit in the “submitted application” phase of the process for well over 90 days.
Once an applicant has completed all these steps, the commission can vote to grant it a provisional license. It then has a variety of other state requirements to meet before the commission can vote to grant it a final license.
Steven Hoffman, chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission, said he’s been in communication with various city and town leaders to assist them through the process, but he’s wary of forcing them into any “one-size-fits-all” solution for moving through the steps.
“It is not our job to tell them what to do,” Hoffman told the Globe editorial board on Thursday. “It is our job to answer their questions and to make sure they have whatever help they can get from us . . . but I don’t tell them what to do.”
So far, 14 stores across Massachusetts have received “commence operations” notices from the state. A Globe review of those stores found companies have spent an average of about 15 weeks with a provisional license and nearly five weeks with a final license, before receiving their “commence operations” notice.
But the numbers vary widely at each store and location. Of the 14 stores, NETA’s Brookline store spent the longest period of time with a provisional license — about 32 weeks — but spent the shortest period of time with a final license, receiving a “commence operations” notice after just nine days.