Challenge Now For Dispensaries? Find Towns Willing To Host Them

Jun 10, 2015

Credit O'Dea

Three companies have been selected to open the state’s first four medical marijuana dispensaries.

Tuesday’s announcement was a milestone toward the state’s implementation of the medical marijuana law passed in 2013.

But there’s still plenty of work to do before the dispensaries, or alternative treatment centers, are up and running.

John Martin is chief of bureau of licensing and certification for the Department of Health and Human Services.

He joined Morning Edition to talk about the process moving forward.

Who are these companies and what made them stand out among the 14 that applied?

There’s a company called Temescal, there’s another called Prime ATC, and another called Sanctuary. They’re going to the three entities that are going to cover the four geographic regions around the state. They were selected as part of an RFA process, a selection process. That was a very comprehensive process, so we required very comprehensive applications with a great deal of information. We then had a selection team that carefully went through each of the applications and chose them primarily on their programmatic capabilities and their financial capabilities. We wanted to make sure they had the knowledge base and expertise to successfully run an ATC, as well as the financial capability to run an alternative treatment center.

What are the different geographic regions across the state?

Basically, we have the four regions covering the eastern, western, southern, and northern part of the state. What we attempted to do was establish the regions to make it as convenient as possible for qualifying patients and designated caregivers to access an alternative treatment center.

These companies must now find locations and towns or cities willing to host them.  Can you talk about that process and what happens if a community doesn’t want it?

We’re going to be working very closely with the three selected entities as they choose the municipalities where they intend to establish. There is going to be a public input process. My department will work with the local municipality where the alternative treatment center is going to be located. We’re going to have meetings in those areas. We’re going to solicit input from qualifying patients, designated caregivers, and residents of the towns and cities where the ATCs are going to be established.

The bottom line is they do have to have local approval. If they can't get it, then they'll need to look at another jurisdiction.

   One of the requirements by law is the alternative treatment centers have to have local zoning approval. We’re hoping the municipalities will work collaboratively with the alternative treatment centers and will embrace them but bottom line is they do have to have local approval. If they can’t get it, then they’ll need to look at another jurisdiction.

Are there restrictions about where the facilities can be? For example, do they have to be a certain distance from a school?

Yes, both the law and our rules are very clear about that in terms of where they can be located. They have to be located a certain distance away from schools and drug-free zones. They also have to be in areas of the municipality that are not zoned residential. There definitely are restrictions set forth in the law and the rules.

What is the timeline for the facilities to be up and running?

Obviously, we want to get them up and running just as quickly as we possibly can. That’s why we’re going to be working with the alternative treatment centers very, very closely. Once the entities are ready to start cultivating, we’ll go in and do an inspection just to make sure they have all the security features and everything else they’re required to have in place by the law and the rules. Once we’ve done the inspection, they can begin cultivating. Once they have a product ready to dispense, they’ll be able to open their doors. We anticipate that’s going to be within the next eight to nine months.