SALEM — Another prospective pot shop has a provisional license from the state, but it will still be several months before a second marijuana retailer opens in Salem.
Insa, which plans to open in the former Meineke Car Care building at 462 Highland Ave., got its provisional license from the Cannabis Control Commission in June. It will still need a final license, however, before opening for business.
Another prospective retailer, Atlantic Medicinal Partners, got a provisional license in April. It plans to open in the Ace Hardware building at 297 Highland Ave., but will also need a final license.
The only pot retailer operating in the area is Alternative Therapies Group (ATG), which opened last December, five months after getting its provisional approval.
The time between gaining provisional and final licenses is spent building out retail space, getting inspections, working out security and launch details with police, and more. To date, none of those conversations have begun with the Salem police for either of the two new prospective retailers, according to police Chief Mary Butler.
"They're a ways off," Butler said. "I don't think this is ... imminent."
Atlantic Medicinal Partners, also known by the acronym AMP, also has proposals in Fitchburg — where a large, 50,000-square-foot cultivation facility, retail store and medical dispensary is coming together — and in Brockton, where it hopes to open a recreational pot shop.
The business expects to begin construction in Salem around Sept. 1, with the build-out to be finished in November. Inspections and a final license would come after that, according to Jeff Perkins, a Salem resident and chief operating officer of the company. They will probably run a job fair a couple months before they open.
"Everything's going really well," Perkins said. "We're approved at the state level for construction. We just have to pull a building permit in Salem and start building out."
"We want to sell our own brand (of marijuana)," he said, but expects to launch with wholesale product purchased elsewhere, since the cultivation arm of the company will take a little more time to get off the ground.
Insa, meanwhile, already has a cultivator, retailer and manufacturing business running in Easthampton. Their venture in Salem is the only other presence for the company currently in front of the Cannabis Control Commission, according to the commission's website. The Easthampton location was among the first to open this past December, about a week after ATG in Salem became the third retail pot shop to open in the state.
ATG's retail launch received a lot of attention in the region, after the state's first two retailers in Leicester and Northampton opened to long waiting times and massive traffic tie-ups. ATG prevented that here by setting up an appointment system to control crowds and providing shuttle buses to alleviate traffic and parking issues.
"Everything with ATG has been fine," Chief Butler said. "There have been no issues over there. They manage it well and manage the crowds."
With Insa getting its provisional license, there are now only two more Salem businesses waiting for a nod from the state: locally powered Seagrass, which hopes to open on Dodge Street, and Witch City Gardens, targeting Jefferson Avenue.
As of Monday, neither application had been reviewed by state officials, and they're not due for review anytime soon, officials with both companies said.
"We know we're in the queue, but we really have no timetable from the Cannabis Control Commission," said Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer for Seagrass. "Like a lot of applications, we're just waiting."
Part of the reason is that several businesses jumped to higher spots in the line because they have medical marijuana programs or an economic empowerment element to their package, according to Tuttle. That's part of how AMP was able to get its provisional deal so early.
Seagrass, Tuttle said, is strictly recreational.
Witch City Gardens, meanwhile, is several dozen applications behind those starting their reviews now, according to Tim Haigh, the company's chief operating officer.
"We did submit our cultivation and retail applications in mid-January," he said, "and the last update we had from the Cannabis Control Commission was about three weeks ago. We were about 70th in line to begin the review process."
Haigh estimated it would take another 30 weeks for their review to started, based on the commission's pace of digging into two or three applications a week. Once their proposal gets a look, more information may be requested and provided. Eventually, Haigh said, the application will be deemed complete, after which a 90-day countdown begins to get the provisional license.
A long process
Overall, Haigh said it could be a year before Witch City Gardens can open a store. Their cultivation work, meanwhile, will be further behind.
"The cultivation facility, because of the complexities of the build-out — HVAC, mechanical requirements — some people in the industry in Massachusetts have predicted that we'll not be given our 'commence operations' on the cultivation facility for at least 18 months," he said.
Just as in AMP's case, Gardens has been working with other manufacturers around the state to cover the time between when the retail goes online and cultivation catches up, according to Haigh.
But there's a sign things could soon speed up, as the state commission has been advertising for more help.
"They're aggressively recruiting right now. Every week I'm seeing ads for positions," Haigh said. "I'd imagine that, as they recruit and on-board new investigators, it'll speed up the process. I'm optimistic that this timeline is going to be greatly reduced."