New Marijuana Dispensary Applicant Eyes Pittsfield Site

By Joe DurwinPittsfield Correspondent
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The building occupied by County-Wide Rental on Dalton Avenue is being considered as a location for a proposed marijuana dispensary.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — One of two entities hoping to open a medical cannabis dispensary in Pittsfield will begin seeking local approvals next week to launch operations in a small commercial building on Dalton Avenue.
Total Health and Wellness Inc., which is currently in the second round of consideration for a dispensary license from the state's Department of Public Health, will seek endorsement next week for a proposed site plan to operate at a retail location currently occupied by County-Wide Rentals.
"This is the first applicant to decide to jump in and actually apply for the special permit," said City Planner Cornelius J. Hoss.
Hoss said that because of the way the ordinance to amend Pittsfield's zoning map to accommodate anticipated dispensary applicants was crafted this summer, if Total Health and Wellness receives a green light at the local level but is not approved for a DPH license, the special permit will be void. 
Of a total of four new nonprofits that have approached the city about the possibility of operating in Pittsfield, only two are still considering the possibility. The other is Manna Wellness, which began presenting its concept for a new marijuana dispensary to the public last spring, but has opted to await word from the DPH before undertaking the local special permit process and costs associated with it.  
While Manna has announced it intends to construct a new, state-of-the-art eco-friendly building to house its anticipated operation, Total Health and Wellness' site plan calls for a mild modification to an existing retail structure.
"The two proposals are quite different," said Hoss, "Manna wants to build a new, all-green building, whereas this application is for a reuse of an existing commercial building, with not a whole lot of improvements."
If approved at both the state and local level, current building owner Paul Lester will sell the 531 Dalton Ave. property to Whaling Properties, which will become landlord for the dispensary.
"I've heard through various discussions that there's an impression we may only get one license, countywide even," said Hoss, leaving open the possibility that only one of the two dispensary hopefuls will be granted DPH approval to open in the Berkshires.
Total Health and Wellness had originally applied to the state to open in Essex County, but changed plans following Phase 1 approval and began looking for sites in both Pittsfield and North Adams. Two other entities that completed Phase 1 are also looking at Berkshire sites: Greenhouse Dispensary Inc. in Lee and Prospect Lake Inc. in Great Barrington.
Review of the site plan by the Community Development Board this Tuesday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. will largely focus on issues such as landscaping, lighting, signage and parking. If the site plan is endorsed by this board, the applicant will then face more questions from the Zoning Board of Appeals in January.
"I would think that would be a different type of discussion, where there's a lot of concern about the handling of marijuana, and security, and things like that," said Hoss.
"THW proposes to cultivate and dispense product at the premises," according to its application, in accordance with state regulations. "Cultivation will occur in a space separate from the retail space."
"In order to ensure the safest, most secure, compliant and transparent operating procedures, THW has enlisted the help of Medbox Inc, the industry leader in dispensary technology," the application also states. "The patented Medbox dispensary system is designed to control inventory and create and unalterable record transmitted to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health of when, how and to whom the product is dispensed."
Total Health and Wellness has not responded to a request on Wednesday for comments about its proposal.
According to the Department of Public Health, Phase 2 review will be completed in early 2014, a little over a year after the voter-approved law took effect, and a list of provisional licenses granted will be made available to the public at that time.

Tags: community development,   medical marijuana,   permitting,   zoning,   

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By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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