BOSTON — A handful of the marijuana businesses granted provisional licenses have informed the Cannabis Control Commission they are ready to be inspected, one of the final steps before retail sales of marijuana, approved by voters almost two years ago, can begin.
CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman said Thursday that the agency is working to schedule inspections for two or three provisionally licensed businesses. Hoffman said the inspections are expected to take place "over the next week, plus or minus."
He said it's possible the CCC could vote at its next meeting, Sept. 20, to issue a final license if a business passes its inspection and fulfills other requirements by then.
"The final inspection is one of the multiple number of requirements to go from provisional license -- there is payment of the fee and other things -- assuming those get turned around, I think the answer is it's quite possible," Hoffman said when asked about issuing a final license at the next CCC meeting.
The chairman noted that such a vote will only take place if the CCC's inspection team approves the facility and finds that it comports to the law and the agency's regulations.
"We're going to go out there and the reason we're doing the inspection is to make sure everything is in place," he said. "If they're not in place, obviously we're going to have to go back again."
The CCC had hoped to launch the retail marijuana industry in Massachusetts by July 1 but did not meet that target. Since then, Hoffman and CCC officials have refused to provide an updated timeline for when consumers will be able to legally buy marijuana.
On Thursday, Hoffman again declined to provide a target date and said he has been telling people stores will open in "late summer/early fall."
"I still think that's a reasonable expectation. I'm not going to be more precise than that," he told reporters. "I think once we have the final inspection scheduled for a couple of entities we can probably get a little more precise."
The CCC approved six more provisional licenses on Thursday afternoon -- two for retail, two for cultivation and two for product manufacturing.
Patriot Care Corp., which already operates medical marijuana dispensaries in Boston, Lowell and Greenfield, was granted provisional licenses to sell non-medical marijuana at its locations on Industrial Avenue East in Lowell and on Legion Avenue in Greenfield.
Patriot Care was also granted a provisional license to grow between 40,001 square feet and 50,000 square feet of marijuana canopy at its current cultivation facility on Lincoln Street in Lowell. The company was also approved to manufacture marijuana products, like oils, tinctures, salves and baked goods.
Northeast Alternatives, Inc., a company that has already been provisionally approved to sell retail marijuana in Fall River, was granted provisional licenses Thursday to grow up to 5,000 square feet of marijuana canopy and to produce marijuana products at its facility on Canning Boulevard in Fall River.
Thursday's commission votes bring the total number of retail stores given provisional approval by the CCC to 11. They are expected to be located in Leicester, Amesbury, Brookline, Northampton, Wareham, Plymouth, Easthampton, Salem, Fall River, Lowell and Greenfield.
The commission has issued provisional licenses for seven cultivation facilities, which combined will be allowed to grow up to 225,000 square feet of marijuana canopy at a time. Those growing facilities are to be located in Leicester, Amesbury, Franklin, Plymouth, Easthampton, Lowell and Fall River.
Some of the cultivators given preliminary approval by the CCC already grow marijuana to be sold into the medical program. Last month, DPH issued guidance saying it will allow medical marijuana dispensaries to transfer some inventory to the non-medical market, as long as the department gives prior approval of the transfer.
As of Thursday, the CCC had another 95 applications pending before it. Executive Director Shawn Collins said Thursday that there are 21 applications awaiting CCC review, 48 that have been deemed incomplete and returned to the applicant to provide additional information and 26 for which the CCC is waiting to hear back from either its background check vendor or the host community.