By , Published: March 29

The District has selected six companies to grow marijuana and supply medical cannabis to users — clearing the way for growers to start producing hundreds of plants in as little as a month.The Health Department is expected to announce Friday that it has selected the winning bidders for cultivating plants that will feed the dispensaries city officials hope to approve by the summer. All the growers will be in Northeast, including a company partly owned by celebrity talk show host Montel Williams.

Combined, they will be tasked with producing thousands of plants annually, in possible violation of federal law.

Two years ago, the D.C. Council voted to establish as many as 10 cultivation centers, where up to 95 marijuana plants could be grown at a time at each location. Once harvested, the marijuana will be sent to five distribution centers for patients to buy.

Mohammad N. Akhter, director of the Health Department, said he and a task force evaluated dozens of bidders before selecting the six applicants. Akhter said they were chosen based on their ability to grow “quality” marijuana “in a safe environment” that includes heavy security.

Akhter said he also tried to ensure that the cultivation centers were not too tightly clustered in the same blocks.

“I have taken every single step that I could to make sure this is done in a safe environment in which we can have a quality product that can meet the needs of the patient in a way that the community is also satisfied,” he said in an interview. “These are the best people who can do the best job.”

Williams’s cultivation center, Abatin Wellness Center, has been approved for the 2100 block of Queens Chapel Road in Langdon, according to a city list obtained by The Washington Post.

The department also selected Montana Apothecary dba Alternative Solutions in the 2100 block of 24th Place NE in Langdon; District Growers in the 2400 block of Evarts Street NE in Langdon; Holistic Remedies in 1800 block of Fenwick Street NE in Ivy City; Phyto Management in the 3700 block of Benning Road NE in Benning; and Venture Forth dba Center City in the 2200 block of Channing Street NE in Langdon.

Before the applicants can open, however, Akhter said they must apply for their business license and building permits from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. He added that the permitting process may take less than two weeks, meaning the marijuana growers may be able to start production in less than a month.

But Helder Gil, a spokesman for DCRA, said it could take some providers longer to open if they plan to make major renovations, including additional electric or water supplies.

“If they are just doing minor stuff . . . they can get a building permit quickly and then come in and get the sign-off,” Gil said.

The Health Department does not expect to complete the approval process for dispensaries until June.

“It takes about 90 days to grow the plants and have them ready,” Akhter said. “By the time growers are ready with the plants, the dispensaries should be in operation.”