Last week the Massachusetts Department of Health announced the first 20 medical marijuana dispensaries to receive licenses from the state. However, the state’s medical pot law passed by voters in 2012 allows up to 35 dispensaries. Officials did not indicate why the state chose to license only 20 dispensaries thus far.

In all, 159 dispensary applications were submitted last fall. Currently there are approved dispensaries in 10 of Massachusetts’s 14 counties, with Berkshire, Franklin, Dukes and Nantucket being denied for the time being. The law mandates that each county have at least one dispensary, with no more than five in any county.  

The criteria state officials used for selecting dispensaries included the appropriateness of a proposed site, local support for a given facility and the potential operator's business plan. Background checks were run on all applicants.

Karen van Unen, director of the state’s medical pot program, said she anticipates between 24 to 26 dispensaries to be in operation between now and August.

Former US Representative William Delahunt (D-MA) was awarded licenses to open dispensaries in three cities; Mashpee, Taunton and Plymouth. All authorized dispensaries must operate as nonprofits, and if the process continues as planned, Massachusetts pot patients should be able to purchase their medicine by this summer.