“It’s going to be a slow rollout – that’s just the nature of the beast,” said Valerio Romano, an attorney and partner at the Vicente Sederberg law firm, which works exclusively with marijuana businesses. “It took the medical medical marijuana industry, which is far less controversial, years to get off the ground.”
Romano said prospective retailers face myriad barriers, from local opposition to tough regulations to hefty start-up costs.
“The biggest challenge is finding a suitable location, especially for dispensaries,” he said. “There’s been a lot of pushback from host communities.”
Commission Chairman Steve Hoffman has sought to ease concerns about a slow rollout, pointing out that the industry will take time to develop.
“What it looks like at this early stage in the process, I suspect, has very little to do with what it ultimately will look like,” he said at a recent meeting.
The commission hasn’t identified the proposed businesses or where they want to locate shops and growing facilities. A map released this week shows license requests by county, including three in Essex County and five in Middlesex.
Only 15 applications being reviewed by the commission are for retail outlets, while the rest are for cultivation, products or research facilities.
Get this straight to your inbox->Become a member at patreon.com/MRCC_ACCESS.
Applicants must pass criminal background checks and get local governments to certify that their businesses will meet zoning and other requirements.
Once that information is submitted, the five-member Cannabis Control Commission has 90 days to approve or deny an application.
Under the state’s pot law, existing medical marijuana businesses and minority owned businesses get a first crack at getting into the industry.
Only a handful of communities are welcoming recreational pot, which observers say will likely lead to shortages until supplies catch up with demand.
Nearly 190 of 351 cities and towns in the state have imposed bans, moratoriums or other limits on marijuana shops since voters legalized the drug for recreational use, according to the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
Those include about two-dozen communities north of Boston that have temporarily banned pot shops from opening after the July 1 date set by the Legislature — including Gloucester, Peabody, Beverly, Methuen and Amesbury. Others, such as Lawrence, have passed outright bans.
“Local opposition is going to be a major barrier,” said Jim Borghesani, a marijuana consultant and spokesman for the 2016 ballot campaign to legalize its use. “The local bans and moratoriums are bad enough, but then you have communities that aren’t moving forward on zoning and host agreements.”