Worcester trumps Boston for the most popular place in Massachusetts to open a medical marijuana dispensary, according to a list released Friday by state regulators of the 100 applicants vying for a license.
Nine of the nonprofit companies chose Worcester, while six selected Boston. Framingham and Lowell tied for third-most desirable, with five applicants apiece.
Northampton attracted three applicants, but Cambridge, with a similarly liberal populace, attracted just one applicant.
A maximum of 35 permits will be awarded in this cycle — the first after voters approved a ballot initiative last fall that legalized use of marijuana for medical treatment. State officials are aiming to select the winners by the end of January.
Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said she was not surprised Boston came in second, given how expensive it is to open a business in the city.
“We are glad there are applicants that have moved forward in Boston because we support the idea that we should have a dispensary in the city,” she said. “We are going to have a lot of patients who need this service, and we want to make sure it is well run.”
The commission on Thursday approved rules that authorize the city to conduct three surprise compliance checks on dispensaries each year, and require dispensaries to offer home delivery.
“We are a big city, and we want to make sure we have as few people as possible who will have a hardship accessing the product,” Ferrer said.
Making home delivery a mandatory service will also cut down on the number of people who apply for a hardship permit — citing lack of transportation — to grow marijuana in their home, Ferrer said.
The city’s rules also require Boston dispensaries to post the commission’s phone number for customers to call if they have complaints, and mandate at least one annual community meeting to address any resident concerns.
In Framingham, Town Manager Bob Halpin was surprised just five organizations filed final-round applications for dispensary permits.
In September, after state regulators whittled the list of statewide applicants to 159, at least 14 prospective owners notified the city that they were interested in Framingham, Halpin said.
Since then, the state tightened rules and required each of the companies to prove it has $500,000 in cash in the bank for start-up costs, a move that apparently knocked many prospective applicants out of the running.
Framingham residents twice in the past year have signaled their acceptance of dispensaries. In April, Town Meeting rejected an attempt to place a temporary moratorium on dispensaries, and in October it voted not to adopt a zoning rule that would restrict dispensaries and their cultivation centers to a strip along Route 9.
“The Town Meeting members that considered the bylaw and moratorium feel that the voters in the initial [statewide] referendum have spoken and we should not obstruct the will of the voters,” Halpin said. “The town’s attitude is, we are neither encouraging or discouraging it.”
He said most of the applicants who met with Framingham officials agreed that a location along Route 9, near exit ramps for the Massachusetts Turnpike, would be good sites.
Framingham officials opted not to issue letters of support or opposition for any of the applicants, one of the many factors state regulators said they will consider when paring the list of 100 applicants to the final 35.
It is not immediately clear why Worcester attracted so many applicants, although the city is centrally located and the City Council recently granted preliminary approval to zoning rules that would govern siting of the dispensaries.
The city’s mayor and economic development officials were unavailable for comment.