Not everyone thinks unopened RMDs should be held in a different class than those up and running. Jim Borghesani is with the Marijuana Policy Project, and is the former spokesman for Yes on 4, the group that wrote the referendum approved by voters in 2016. Even if those RMDs never opened their doors, he says they still spent a lot of money to secure that provisional license and deserve to get a first shot at a recreational one.
The medical marijuana licensing fee from the Department of Public Health alone costs $80,000 — and that doesn’t count lawyer or lobbying fees.
“We think it’s fitting that businesses that have worked for years and spent great deals of money to get established and get provisional licenses have the ability to go in first round,” Borghesani says.
Others say it seems like a case of putting money ahead of people the law is supposed to serve.
Maggie Kinsella is with MassCann, the state affiliate of NORML — the National Organization for the Reform of the Marijuana Laws. She says the groups with money — the RMDs that were able to secure licenses and sit on them — shouldn’t be competing with the open RMDs or the so-called “economic empowerment applicants.” Those in the latter group who qualify include individuals living in areas affected by marijuana prohibition, minorities and those with marijuana convictions.
“This is very discouraging to see because we’ve worked really hard to get a level playing field,” Kinsella says.
While some see groups in the first round as competing against one another, commissioners say they have installed processes to safeguard against disadvantages to “economic empowerment applicants.” They say they will alternate between decisions on economic empowerment applicants, and the dispensary applications that are likely to have greater financial resources.
Applications will be looked at in a first come, first serve manner, with no limit on the number of retailers that gain approval. The process opens up to more entities starting April 15, with anyone eligible to apply on June 1.