SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — Dozens of Santa Ana business owners are one step closer to being able to legally open medical marijuana dispensaries as a lottery drawing got underway in the city Thursday.

Pending regulatory approval, those participating could be among 20 applicants allowed to legally operate in Santa Ana, a first for Orange County after voters overwhelmingly passed Measure BB (PDF) last year.

A third-party auditor was hired to hold the lottery to keep the process fair and impartial, officials say.

Santa Ana has meanwhile collected more than $1 million from about 600 lottery applicants.

Legally operated pot shops will be taxed 5 percent to 10 percent of their gross receipts.

There are more than 100 dispensaries operating illegally in Santa Ana; however, and officials hope funds raised through the effort will help crack down on those facilities.

Applicant Derek Worden says his is one of them, although he pays taxes on the marijuana he sells and his customers must be over 21. But he’s leased a space on Warner Avenue paying three times the going rate, hoping his collective will ultimately be approved.

“We love the tax program. … We want to do things differently,” he said.

Worden says he’s spent over $100,000 submitting more than 50 applications.

His number was chosen as the lottery narrowed down winners Thursday.

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