BOSTON -- The Massachusetts Medical Use of Marijuana (MMJ) Program today announced the first 20 Registered Marijuana Dispensaries approved for provisional licensure to operate, which will lead to patient access and hundreds of jobs across the Commonwealth. Among them is Central Ave. Compassionate Care in Ayer, owned by John Hillier of Shirley.

The Registered Marijuana Dispensary Selection Committee made their selections based on a review of 100 Phase 2 finalists, using objective scoring guided by state procurement principles. The process included extensive background checks and was based on factors such as overall quality of the application, appropriateness of the site, local support, and the applicant's ability to meet the overall health needs of registered patients while ensuring public safety.

"We are pleased to announce that qualified patients will soon have full access to marijuana for medical use in Massachusetts," said MMJ Program Executive Director Karen van Unen. "Only dispensaries with the highest quality applications were selected to be a part of this new industry, which will create hundreds of jobs while maintaining community safety."

The law, overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2012, allows for up to 35 dispensaries across the state. The first 20 approved dispensaries will be spread across 10 of Massachusetts' 14 counties. All approved applicants are non-profit entities responsible for seed-to-sale control of the business, including the dispensary and secure cultivation facility.


Eight highly qualified applicants who were not granted their proposed location will be invited to seek a change of location to a county without provisional approval for a Registered Marijuana Dispensary. This phase will allow the Selection Committee to review high-scoring applicants who wish to seek a change of location to an underserved county to maximize patient access. Additional information on this process will be announced in the near future.

"The Selection Committee included members with diverse skills and disciplines, working together to recommend only the most qualified Registered Marijuana Dispensaries," said Walpole Deputy Police Chief and Selection Committee member John Carmichael, Jr. "These recommendations are based on objective benchmarks including geographic dispersion, patient access, security and readiness to operate. The citizens of the Commonwealth can be assured that this process was thoroughly and accurately vetted."

Van Unen was responsible for final sign off on the selections and will oversee all aspects of the MMJ Program, including the patient and caregiver registration database which will be operational later this year and available to law enforcement.

All successful applicants will be required to demonstrate compliance with municipal rules, regulations, ordinances, and bylaws before opening. Dispensaries must also pass the MMJ Program's inspection process prior to receiving full licensure. The inspection includes security, architectural review, growing requirements, and compliance with local zoning and laws.

"I couldn't be more pleased with the job DPH has done in fulfilling its responsibilities through this licensing process," said Representative Frank Smizik. "In its quest for a serious, inclusive and professional medical marijuana program, DPH has not left any stone unturned in vetting these applicants. As a result, Massachusetts can expect to serve as a model for other states seeking to allow seriously ill patients access to medical marijuana."

Since the law took effect January 1, 2013, the Department has enjoyed significant public involvement through listening sessions and public hearings. DPH enacted regulations that have been called a model for other states to follow, and the Department has advanced the competitive dispensary application process on an aggressive timeline to ensure patient access.