By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — SALEM — The number of applicants hoping to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Essex County has been whittled to seven — two of which are eyeing Salem for their sites and two for Beverly.
Although 16 of 18 applicants in the county made it through the first phase of the state’s approval process, only seven applied for the second and final phase, according to the state Department of Public Health.
Of those, two nonprofits listed their first choice of location as Salem: Alternative Therapies Group, led by Christopher Edwards; and Good Chemistry of Massachusetts, led by Matthew Huron. Good Chemistry also applied to open dispensaries in Boston and Worcester.
Mayor Kim Driscoll’s office said this week that it has been in touch with both nonprofits, and that Driscoll had supplied “letters of non-opposition” on their behalf.
Once a nonprofit obtains a license from the state, it still needs to get approval on a local level. In Salem, that means getting a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals, since dispensaries are considered medical clinics under city code.
Two other nonprofits listed Beverly as their top choice: CAS Foundation, led by Jayne Vining; and Medicinal Evolution,led by Brandon Tarricone. The CAS Foundation also applied to open a dispensary in Lowell.
Another applicant listed Ipswich as its intended location: Ipswich Pharmaceutical Associates, led by Samuel Soko-Margolis.
The other two applicants in the county named Haverhill and Lawrence as their target cities.
There’s no guarantee that a nonprofit denied permission to operate in its first choice of location won’t be approved for another, but it seems unlikely at this point that dispensaries will be located in Peabody, Danvers or even Lynn, the county’s largest population center.
Phase 2 applicants must be approved by the state’s seven-member selection committee in order to be issued provisional licenses to operate their dispensaries.
The selection committee will judge the applicants based on factors including “appropriateness of the site, geographical distribution of dispensaries, local support and the applicant’s ability to meet the overall health needs of registered patients while ensuring public safety,” according to the public health department’s website.
The state will announce which dispensaries have been approved early next year. Under the law passed by voters in 2012, up to 35 dispensaries will be approved. Essex County will have at least one, and perhaps as many as five. Dispensaries will be allowed to grow marijuana in addition to providing it to patients with a prescription.
Statewide, only 100 of the 158 applicants who were cleared to apply for phase 2 actually did so.