LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — A Brooklyn chocolatier is considering purchasing one of the mall's former anchor store spaces to manufacturer marijuana-infused chocolate products.
Lev Kelman and Lori Denman pitched the concept to the Board of Selectmen last Monday night. Kelman said he's been in talks with mall ownership to either lease a large space like the vacant J.C. Penny location or a smaller space in the former Garden Grill space.
Kelman would like to grow marijuana, manufacture the products, and if he has enough space, open a marijuana and hemp museum.
"We would like to have a marijuana and hemp museum to educate the public of the benefits of marijuana products," Kelman said.
Kelman's history is as a chocolatier and had developed a recipe for THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, and CBD (cannabidiol)-infused chocolates for both the medical and recreational market. Kelman said marijuana helped his sclerosis and his recipe is aimed at leveraging as much health benefits as possible.
"The idea is to create chocolate that is sugar-free, organic, and healthy," Kelman said. "We are trying to be the healthiest and cleanest in the market."
Kelman praised the benefits of marijuana and hemp and believes a museum will help show those benefits to the public. But, he said he'll design the space to limit the impact to other tenants and customers.
"We'll make sure people who think negatively of marijuana will not even know we are there," Kelman said.
The mall is a potential spot because of the available parking, utilities, and infrastructure. The J.C. Penney space is some 51,000 square-feet whereas the former restaurant space is some 7,000 square feet. Kelman said the exact details of the scale of the project would depend partially on that. Kelman said his original plan didn't include growing marijuana but there are limited options for purchase at this time.
"There is such a shortage of cannabis plants so we decided we would not be able to buy it from somewhere else, we'd have to grow it on our own," he said.
The idea is still a ways away as the state has been slow in issuing permits for marijuana cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers. Kelman hasn't even started the application process and the state has only approved two of 34 submitted from Berkshire County so far.
Furthermore, the mall has been struggling to retain tenants and is still tied up in multiple court cases. Ownership has struggled to keep up with the bills, falling behind on taxes and utility payments. Meanwhile, county planners have been envisioning future uses for the property.