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Police Chief Richard Tarsa speaks at Wednesday's meeting of the Selectmen about a medical marijuana dispensary.

Adams Agrees To Host Agreement With Medical Marijuana Dispensary

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen will provide a letter of non-opposition for a medical marijuana dispensary to open in Adams.

The board voted unanimously Wednesday to provide Mission Massachusetts' general manager Cory Ravelson with the letter that allows Mission to move further along in the state application process to sell medical marijuana.

Attached to the letter is a host community agreement that promises Adams 3 percent of all revenues if the dispensary opens.  

"It's a small step in the process but I think it is a good step for the town overall," Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco said. "It would generate tens of thousands of dollars at the low end for the town ... It may not happen but this is the first step in the process ... so we are taking a 40,000-foot view and saying the door is open but there is quite a bit of work needed to make this happen."

Ravelson said his group has been working with Community Development Director Donna Cesan to pick out possible locations. The company is seeking a 2,000- to 4,000-square-foot building and has eyed properties at the town's gateways and downtown.

"We have identified properties that are available that fit the state regulations and our needs," he said. "Over the last month, we have really focused in on Adams ... we have had an interest in Western Mass and in the Berkshires and we are really excited to locate here specifically."  

He said the facility would only be for retail and that the group's growing and processing facility will be in Worcester. He said they are in the construction phase of a retail facility in Worcester as well and they plan to open another in Burlington.

Mission Massachusetts is in the process of developing a 60,000 square-foot growing facility in Worcester.

Selectman Joseph Nowak, who has been a strong proponent for a dispensary since he was elected, had few concerns and welcomed the group to Adams.

"Anything that can help an individual that is struggling I am all for it ... I know some people that have conditions that have just taken their quality of life away from them," he said. "I think these days if you don't have quality of life then you are mission out on life."

Board of Health member Bruce Shepley, a registered nurse of 32 years, said a dispensary will go beyond creating a new stream of revenue in town by helping those in need.

"It is another case of access to health care and if you can imagine the need for a pharmaceutical agent to control pain whatever your diagnosis is and having to go out to get it or not have it available," he said. "It happens all too often. I know is it controversial and it keeps being redefined but I think it would be a very good thing for the Selectmen not to oppose this. It is a progressive thing."

Police Chief Richard Tarsa said that although he was "tepid" as a citizen and chief to welcome a dispensary, he did not see a reason to obstruct it.

"I have presented my side of this a few times and regardless of what I think, the pros and cons are at a personal level and my feelings as the police chief, I am also a realist," Tarsa said. "There is no doubt that there is a move to put it in Adams and that is a move I am in no position to fight against ... it's coming and it's here."

Tarsa said his main concern was security and that he had a great conversation with John Penders of Winmill Group, a security consulting firm representing Mission Massachusetts.

Penders, who attended the meeting, said Mission Massachusetts plans to go beyond state security regulations.

"We take a phased approach and we work with local law enforcement, fire and EMS and we conduct a risk assessment of the proposed property and work to mitigate any risk," he said. "We develop a tailored security plan for the applicant and we train them on how to use the system."  

He said the system will have intrusion detection, video surveillance and access control. Employees will have pass cards so access can be controlled and monitored.

Tarsa said the dispensary will only work if everyone works together.

"We need to work together to get the proper bylaws that protect the town, the community and the business itself," he said. "We need to work together to make this go. I am not thrilled, being the chief of police, but it is coming and we have to figure out how to make it work."

Planning Board member Sandra Moderski asked Robinson if there was any intention of opening a recreational marijuana dispensary.

Ravelson said not at this point.

"At this point, there is too much unknown about recreational marijuana with the state and the federal government," he said. "We are keeping an eye on what goes on but at this point, we only have an eye on medical because that's all we know."

Tarsa added that he sensed if recreational marijuana becomes legal, the group would add it to their business. He asked that it locate in a free-standing structure outside of the downtown and with plenty of parking.

Ravelson that would be a preferable location.

Mazzucco added that recreational marijuana will most likely be more regulated than medical marijuana and there will be an entirely new application process.

"When you look at how regulated this process is I have a good feeling that the state would have a separate approval process," he said. "And if it is this strict for medical I assume it will be more so with recreational. I can't see the state of Massachusetts that still regulates alcohol like it did a century ago not have even stricter regulations."

He added that if they start selling recreational marijuana it will also reopen the host agreement contract.

Moderski added that with 34 medical marijuana users in Adams, she felt there wasn't a need for a dispensary.

Ravelson disagreed and said the closest open location is in Northampton and the only one slated to open in Berkshire County is in Pittsfield.

"Looking at the region, we felt there was a void in northwest Massachusetts, and we looked at the population and the percentages of medical patients in the area," he said. "We have run the numbers and we think there is a need in Adams."

Moderski also had concerns that patients would not be able to afford the products. Robinson people usually spend about $100 per dispensary visit.

Sam Tracy, a legal consultant with 4Front Ventures, representing Mission Massachusetts, said, the prices are regulated by the state and need to be close to black-market prices so there is no risk of diversion where patients buy from the store and then resell illegally for profit.

He added that because medical marijuana cannot yet be covered by insurance, the group will offer discounts for those on Social Security and disability or with military service.  

Ravelson said they hope to secure a location as soon as possible and if the application process goes as planned, to open by early next spring.


Tags: medical marijuana,   

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