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The former Arizona Pizza has been vacant for about two years.

THC-Infused Chocolate Factory Eyed For Former AZP In Lanesborough

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — A Brooklyn, N.Y., chocolatier who previously was looking to build a cannabis-infused chocolate factory at the Berkshire Mall is now wants to purchase the former Arizona Pizza building on Cheshire Road.
 
Lev Kelman, the owner of Brooklyn Dark, said on Wednesday that he's made an offer on the building at 660 Cheshire Road and expects to close by mid-June. Kelman is now going through the process of applying to the state for permits to manufacture the THC-infused chocolates and that includes a community meeting on Wednesday, May 15, at 6:30 at Town Hall.
 
"I'm excited. I'm excited to start a company in Massachusetts," Kelman said.
 
Kelman said the space available at the Berkshire Mall didn't work out for a number of reasons -- the size of the former J.C. Penney and Garden Grill spaces were too large and expensive up front for what he wants to do, the legal and zoning questions about manufacturing products at the mall, and the mall's recent struggles. 
 
But he still wanted to be in Lanesborough so he sought out other properties and found the 3,100 square-foot former restaurant right near the mall.
 
"It is zoned perfectly for what I want to do," Kelman said, adding that there is plenty of parking and that the building is well sized for what he hopes to open.
 
The plan is to use about 2,100 square-feet for the manufacturing operation. He boasts of recipes that are vegan, organic, and use free-trade ingredients harvested in sustainable ways. He'll make chocolates and salve. The remaining 1,000 square feet will be for a future retail dispensary.  He also hopes to create drinks and eventually add a greenhouse to cultivate marijuana.
 
"We are going to do healthy and clean stuff," Kelman said.
 
Kelman estimates that there would be six to 10 jobs created when the production center first opens and more when the company expands. He believes as more and more states move toward legalization, there is a lot of room for growth.
 
His plan hasn't changed since he first approached the Board of Selectmen with the idea in March except for the location. The Selectmen were supportive of the effort, as they have been with other cannabis companies that have inquired. 
 
Kelman's is trained as a chocolatier and then later he developed a recipe for THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, and CBD (cannabidiol)-infused chocolates for both the medical and recreational market. Kelman said he is particularly focused on the health benefits that come with marijuana.
 
"It is really amazing how cannabis reduces inflammation," Kelman said while giving a few examples of the health benefits.
 
The state's permitting process does take some time to navigate but the first steps are to reach a community host agreement and hold a public meeting. Kelman said there is a lot of red tape involved in the permitting process and believes much of that was designed out of fear of marijuana. He said in March he'd like to work toward shaking the negative view of cannabis. 
 
The restaurant closed a little more than two years ago and has sat vacant since. Massachusetts recreational dispensaries have been opening at a steady pace in the last six months or so. Throughout the Berkshires, many businesses have begun the process to open, most of which eyed retail. 

Tags: chocolate,   marijuana,   

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