Competition is heating up for the available retail licenses to sell recreational marijuana north of Boston.
The state’s Cannabis Control Commission has approved a provisional license for Alternative Therapies Group to open a retail outlet in Amesbury, which would be the first in the region. The commission also is considering letting ATG open stores in Salem and Salisbury.
The Lowell City Council, which has approved up to five retail marijuana shops, signed a five-year host agreement with Patriot Care Corp., which currently operates a medical marijuana dispensary in the city. Patriot has committed 3 percent of sales to Lowell, and promised to use local vendors and to give residents hiring preference if it is granted a retail license. That application is pending with the state commission.
Other applications, such as one from the Massachusetts Patient Foundation in Lynn, are underway but not yet complete.
“Amesbury residents voted overwhelmingly to support retail marijuana sales in town, and we are delighted that we will be among the first,” said Mayor Ken Gray.
“The Amesbury facility has received a provisional license, but the Macy Street building needs renovations,” said Chris Edwards, executive director at Alternative Therapies, which opened the first medical marijuana facility in the state in 2015. “We have submitted applications to the [cannabis commission] for outlets in Salem and Salisbury, and those facilities are ready to go. Salem may be the first to open in Essex County followed by Salisbury, depending on the timing of the renovations and state approval process.”
To receive a recreational license, a company must agree to a host agreement that may include incentives for the city or town. An application is then submitted to the commission, which has 90 days to issue a provisional license or deny an application.
Amesbury’s host agreement stipulates ATG will pay the city 3 percent of gross sales; make $25,000 in annual donations to local charities; and give hiring preference to Amesbury residents.
“This is a good deal for Amesbury,” said Gray. “We have worked with ATG since 2014 on a cultivation facility [located in the city]. ATG has been excellent to work with and always done everything they said they would do.”
Since Amesbury approved an unrestricted number of pot shops, “companies have been coming out of the woodwork to talk with us,” the mayor said.
Lynn bylaws allow up to eight pot shops. In mid-August, the Lynn City Council signed a host agreement with the Massachusetts Patient Foundation, which plans to operate a 4,631-square-foot combined medical and retail shop. The medical dispensary on the Lynnway is scheduled to open this fall, and the firm hopes to expand if it also receives a retail license.
Old World Remedies of Marblehead already operates a medical marijuana dispensary on Western Avenue in Lynn. It also plans to expand into retail sales, according to James Lamanna, the city’s attorney.
In addition to the pending agreement with Alternative Therapies, Salisbury has one additional retail license available. Town Manager Neil Harrington has had preliminary meetings with four companies looking to open in the town bordering New Hampshire.
“Ultimately, the Board of Selectmen will make the choice,’’ said Harrington. “They may choose one or none; it is a long, complex process.”