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Competition developing among applicants for marijuana licenses

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A wide-open competition among groups interested in opening medical marijuana dispensaries is taking shape in the region south of Boston, with 19 applications filed in Plymouth County alone.

In two other counties that include parts of the region, Norfolk and Bristol, groups submitted a combined 21 license applications, according to a statewide list released by the Department of Public Health.

The 2012 state ballot law that legalized medical marijuana in Massachusetts allows the Department of Public Health to license up to 35 nonprofit dispensaries, with at least one but no more than five from each county. Statewide, 181 applications were filed.

The applications come as many municipalities, concerned about potential public safety impact, are developing zoning rules to restrict where medical marijuana dispensaries can locate. Some passed temporary moratoriums on the centers to allow time to craft their rules.

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