State officials spent this week poring over 29 applications to operate medical marijuana dispensaries, in hopes of awarding Maine’s first eight licenses a week from today.

But the applications won’t be opened for public inspection until the middle of next week, officials said Thursday.

The applications contain confidential information that must be edited out, such as Social Security numbers of applicants and the names of some patients who hope to buy marijuana to treat the symptoms of cancer, multiple sclerosis and other illnesses, said John Martins, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Every page has to be read and every page has to be redacted,” Martins said.

A handful of media companies and others have requested access to the documents, he said. The department initially planned to open them for inspection earlier this week, but it couldn’t edit out the confidential information in time.

The DHHS is now closed until Tuesday because of a state furlough day today and the Independence Day holiday on Monday, Martins noted.

Paula Gibbs, president of the Maine Press Association, said that delay and the planned licensing announcement on July 9 leave little time for transparency in the licensing process.

“It doesn’t necessarily serve the public’s right to be involved,” she said, suggesting that the licensing decision be delayed, too.

Maine law says government agencies must make public documents available “within a reasonable period of time.”

Charles Wynott of Westbrook, a medical marijuana patient and caregiver, said there is a lot of interest in the applications, which include details about business plans.

“I would like to see all of the applications, just to give us an idea of who’s out there and who’s proposing what,” he said.

But he wouldn’t want that to delay the licensing decision, he said. “It’s going to take some time to get up and running, so the sooner the state makes their decision, the better.”

A couple of applicants have already contacted Portland officials about potential dispensary sites if they win the license to operate Cumberland County’s dispensary. Six groups have applied for the license for Cumberland County and six have applied for York County’s license.

Nicole Clegg, Portland’s spokeswoman, said the applicants identified buildings at the corner of St. John and Congress streets, the corner of Franklin and Somerset streets and 135 Walton Ave.

No formal applications will be filed with the city until after the licenses are granted and the City Council finalizes a zoning change to allow dispensaries in the downtown area. The council is expected to vote on the zoning later this month.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

[email protected]