The dozen winners of medical marijuana grower/processor permits and the hundreds of hopeful dispensary licensees can’t yet exhale.

The state Department of Health on Tuesday announced the first 12 recipients of grower and processor permits. Regionally, two Berks County businesses won licenses, as did a company in Luzerne County and one in Lackawanna County. If all goes according to plan, they should begin growing and processing in early 2018.

But that’s easier said than done. The state will only now begin criminal background checks on the employees of licensed growers, and the businesses must prove to the state by the end of the year that they’re prepared to operate under a rigorous regulatory framework that includes tracking their product from seed to sale.

Read the full list of Pennsylvania marijuana growers

The Department of Health must deem a grower/processor “operational” before it can actually begin growing marijuana. If they’re not deemed operational within six months, they risk losing the permit.

Grower/processors also must pay a registration fee of $200,000.

Meanwhile, the 165 businesses whose grower/processor applications were rejected have an opportunity to appeal the application review board’s evaluation. Given that simply submitting an application cost $10,000, there are bound to be a few appeals.

Next week, the Department of Health will announce the 27 winners of dispensary permits. It received 280 applications.

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