All eyes are on Brookline.
When New England Treatment Access begins recreational marijuana sales Saturday
, the opening opens a new era in Greater Boston: a time when marijuana is not only legal but accessible to Boston citizens who rely on public transport.
Meanwhile, business owners and local leaders in neighboring countries and cities – including Boston ̵
The process the state Cannabis Control Commission requires to open a recreational marijuana plant may be lengthy for some and shorter for others, making it challenging to determine exactly when the next Greater Boston store opens. And even though the state has clearly and publicly stated the steps that are in progress, officials have been reluctant to stitch down a timeline for potential store owners.
"It's so messy and it's so scary," said Jacinth Cooke, director of operations for the Alchemy League, who filed an application to open a recreational marijuana store in Boston. Cooke's wife, Leah Daniels, is the company's owner.
The Alchemy League is one of three companies in Boston who had submitted their applications to the Cannabis Control Commission on March 7, when the Commission published its latest data on recreational marijuana facility applicants.
Seven others in Greater Boston – four in Brookline (including NETA), two in Chelsea and one in Newton – have done the same, and some have moved further in the licensing process.
But the application is only the first major step in a long-term process that can take three months or more.
The state process has four key elements:
1. Submitting an application having its own required set of four packets
2. Receiving a Provisional License
3. Receiving a Final License
4. Receiving a "start operation" message that allows the store to open after three calendar days.
Apart from NETA, two other Greater Boston stores have received a form of license: Sanctuary Medicinals LLC in Brookline and Garden Remedies Inc. in Newton. Both stores have preliminary licenses, which are step two in the four-step process.
No major Boston store, NETA excluded, has a final license – next to the last step before they could open the doors and start selling recreational pot.
The time spent in the initial application phase of the process where all Boston applicants are currently sitting is in the air. Submitted just means: It doesn't mean it's complete or it's been investigated.
Once the application is confirmed to be complete and accurate, the company must have a background check and have the host city or city confirm to the state that it complies with the statutes or regulations. The Commission then has 90 days to accept or refuse the completed application.
Although a company notifies the Commission when submitting an application, "the time it takes to complete the process depends on the initial completeness of the applicant's submitted packages," according to a commission spokesman. So an applicant could easily sit in the "filed application" process for more than 90 days.
Once an applicant has completed all these steps, the Commission may vote to grant it a provisional license. It has so many other state requirements to be held before the Commission can vote on giving it a final license.
Steven Hoffman, chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission, said he has been in communication with various city and city leaders to help them through the process, but he is wary of forcing them to "one-size-one" fits-all "solution to move through the steps.
"It is not our job to tell them what to do," said Hoffman Globe Board on Thursday. "It is our job to answer their questions and to make sure they have the help they can get from us … but I do not tell them what to do."
So far, 14 stores have Massachusetts received messages from the state to start operations. A Globe review of the stores that were found has used an average of approx. 15 weeks with a provisional license and almost five weeks with a final license before receiving their "start operation" message.
But the numbers vary greatly in each store and location. Of the 14 stores, NETA's Brookline store used the longest period with a preliminary license – approx. 32 weeks – but spent the shortest period with a final license that received a "start operation" message after only nine days.
Amanda Rositano, NETA's Operational Compliance Director, said each store's unique timeline to move through the process will be largely influenced by local government requirements.
Unlike Northampton, where NETA's store was one of the first two to open on the East Coast in November, Brookline established its own local licensing process which required additional meetings and hearings.
"We needed to work with almost every city department, share our plans and take their proposals," Rositano said.
In Brookline, she added that they were also expected to send a traffic plan with the police. Although they worked closely with the police in Northampton, the specific requirement was not there.
"For what it is worth, we were in full support of that process and we are happy to cooperate with the city in the process" Rositano said and added that "there were just several steps in the local process and more meetings in transit."
Even before the various license times came into play, Cooke, from the Alchemy League, said the application phase of the process could be the most difficult to project. It simply depends on the company's preparedness.
While some potential stores – such as Core Empowerment in Jamaica Plain, whose co-owner told Globe, the company filed an application with the Commission on Thursday – has been secured a place for some time, others In the application phase, solidification of a location may still be made .
The Alchemy League, for example, filed an application with a proposed location for its store that has since fallen through. The company plans to remain in the "submitted application phase" indefinitely as the owner searches for a new location.
"We spent seven months in one place because we were good," but Cooke said, "We continue to see."
Felicia Gans can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans .