Williamstown Panels to Review Proposed Pot Planter
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — As the town waits for the opening of its first marijuana business since the commonwealth voted to legalize recreational use of the drug, another venture is beginning the permitting process.
Ryan Wimpee, the attorney for Colorado-based Euflora Cannabis Dispensaries, has applied for permission to start an outdoor cannabis farm on 20 acres at 295 Blair Road, a property known as River Rock Farm and owned by Eric Reinhard.
The proposal will make its first stop before a town committee on Thursday when the Conservation Commission hears a request for determination of applicability.
According to the completed permit available on the town's website, Wimpee, doing business as Massflora LLC, needs to take the proposal before the Con Comm because the property is bisected by the Green River and part of the planned development occurs on land adjacent to land that falls under the commission's jurisdiction.
While the Con Comm will address issues like erosion control and may permit the project without requiring a more onerous and expensive Notice of Intent procedure, Thursday's 7 p.m. hearing is a precursor to a Feb. 21 appearance before the Zoning Board of Appeals.
In 2017, town meeting approved zoning for commercial marijuana operations, requiring a special permit for any such business in the Village Beautiful.
While any similarly-sized development — whether to grow pot or potatoes — might require a stop before the Con Comm, the special permit application is specific to the nature of Massflora's planned operation.
It is the Zoning Board that will consider items like the impacts of "5+/- acre" security fence that would surround the cultivation field, a 7,000-square-foot processing building and any smells associated with the cultivation of cannabis. It is the ZBA that is charged with deciding whether the planned development "would not be substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood."
The security fence's visual impact on abutters — and how to mitigate it — would be a matter for the ZBA, as would scent, an issue that has been a topic of conversation in the cannabis industry.
According to the website of Dinafem, an international cannabis seed bank based in Spain, there are methods to mitigate smells.
"One of cannabis's most distinct characteristics is its scent," dinafem.org reads in part. "While this can be a source of pleasure for growers, it can also become a problem if they need to conceal the presence of their plants.
"To prevent the smell of weed there are different methods available, for both indoor and outdoor crops, ranging from home remedies, like planting other aromatic species in the area, to installing carbon filters in ventilation systems to clean the air and avert suspicion."
Massflora addresses the odor issue in its application.
"All vegetative growth will be done indoors," the application reads in part. "The vegetative stage of cannabis does not produce any odor. Odor is produced from the cannabis plant in the final 4-5 weeks of its life cycle. Harvests will be done on days that are not windy to avoid the odor that may be produced during the harvesting process. All plants that have been harvested will immediately be stored in an enclosed receptacle and transported indoors, where all air will be filtered through a HEPA system as well as charcoal filters."
Scent and its impact on abutters is less of an issue for indoor growing facilities like that being developed like Silver Therapeutics, which poised to open a recreational pot shop in the Colonial Plaza on Main Street (Route 2). That facility, under development in Orange, will supply Silver's medical marijuana business, the majority of which must be "vertically integrated," by law.
For the "adult use" or recreational pot, Silver Therapeutics principal Joshua Silver will be procuring product from existing licensed growers, and he agreed Tuesday that a local cultivator like the one proposed by Massflora could be convenient.
"I think it would be awesome, especially for folks of Williamstown, to have outdoor cultivated product that is cultivated in town," Silver said. "I'd be happy to talk to them.
"We've talked to just about every cultivator who will take our phone call. I haven't reached out to the new group in Williamstown, but we only became aware of it when we received the notice about the [special permit] hearing."
As for the timetable for the Main Street dispensary, Silver said Tuesday that his business is waiting on final approval from the commonwealth's Cannabis Control Commission.
"We've completed our buildout," Silver said in a telephone interview. "We have all of the infrastructure — our employees, our point-of-sale, bookkeeping, all that stuff is in place and ready to go.
"The only thing we're missing is the go-ahead from the CCC."
Silver said an on-site post-provisional license inspection by the CCC is scheduled for Feb. 22. If that is successful, Silver would have to be placed on the agenda for the CCC board for a final licensure hearing. After that, there is one more round of inspections by the CCC before a license is issued.
"It tends to be two to four weeks between each step," Silver said.
In the meantime, he has identified, trained and licensed employees who have agreed to leave their current jobs and start working at Silver Therapeutics once the shop is operational.
"The people who came to us, the people we on-boarded are people who have been waiting a long time for legalization, and there's a lot of them out there," Silver said. "When we first met with them, we explained the uncertainty with respect to timing, and they all got it. But it's something they've been looking forward to and wanted to be a part of."
The regulatory timetable outlined by Silver — which remains outside the business's control — could put Silver Therapeutics on course to receive final licensure in mid-April, just in time for the April 20 "holiday" embraced by marijuana enthusiasts.
"That would be great," Silver said with a laugh. "I hadn't considered that.
"I'd love for it to be March 20, but that might be a little aggressive."
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