Pittsfield Dispensary Applicant Clears Final Local Hurdle

By Joe DurwinPittsfield Correspondent
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Total Health and Wellness has passed all local permitting to establish a medical marijuana dispensary on Dalton Avenue but needs a state license to move forward.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With the final decision from the state less than a week away, one "registered marijuana dispensary" applicant has now cleared the final local hurdle to establishing the county's first medicinal cannabis health service.

Pittsfield's Conservation Commission on Thursday approved the final step in local permitting for Total Health and Wellness, which hopes to open the city's first RMD facility in a commercial section of Dalton Avenue if granted licensure by the Massachusetts Department of Health next week. The board voted unanimously to endorse the nonprofit's request to reconstruct an existing parking lot at the site.

The lot at 531 Dalton Ave., formerly the location of County-Wide Rentals, lies within the flood plain of the Unkamet Brook, but the city found no issue with the proposed parking lot overhaul as presented by James Scalise of SK Design on Thursday.

"What we're proposing to is to take about 1,270 square feet of existing parking area and convert it from a hard gravel blacktop surface to lawn and landscape cover," Scalise told the commission.

Conservation officer Rob Van der Kar said the plans put forth comply with all relevant environmental and waterfront regulations.

"The only concerns from the public came in regard to PCBs," said Van der Kar, noting that the toxic polychlorinated biphenyls had been found at surrounding sites. The state Department of Environmental Protection had indicated that this site had been tested and found not to be contaminated, he continued. "So I don't think that's an issue here."

Commission Chairman James Conant opened the motion up to the public hearing, at which no comments were offered.

The site plan for the reused building was already endorsed without objection by the Community Development Board last month, and approval of the special permit under Pittsfield's recently enacted zoning rules sailed through the city's Zoning Board on Wednesday, following a public hearing that saw no opposing voices.

"There didn't seem to be any concerns from the [zoning] board members," Michelle Butler of Total Health and Wellness told iBerkshires following Thursday's decision. "So this was our last step on the local level in terms of approval.

"Now we're just waiting on the results from the DPH," said Butler. "There's really no way to say. There are 100 applicants and they'll be accepting up to 35, so it's really anybody's guess."

If granted, current building owner Paul Lester will sell the Dalton Avenue property to Whaling Properties, which will become landlord for the nonprofit dispensary. Total Health has said it will employ well-established dispensary security technologies in the facility, which will have separated areas for the cultivation and distribution of the cannabis plant products. They anticipates 30 to 50 patients to visit per day.

Butler said if the commonwealth grants the license, preparation of the site can begin as soon as weather permits now that all local approvals are in place. Requirements for subsequent inspections by the DPH once that renovation is complete, Butler said, make the exact timetable for a potential opening date unclear.

In the event Total Health is not one of the applicants approved by the state's determining panel, the city special permit becomes void. Local nonprofit Manna Wellness has also applied for a state license to dispense in Pittsfield, and are hopeful if approved to break ground on a new building on the other side of the city, along Pittsfield's western corridor off Route 20.

According to sources within the DPH, an announcement of the Phase II applicants approved for licenses to dispense medical marijuana under Massachusetts 2012 voter-enacted law is expected at 2 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 30.

Tags: conservation commission,   medical marijuana,   

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