Pioneer Gardens aims to grow medical pot
DEERFIELD — Using Mill Village Road as a base, Pioneer Gardens Inc. hopes to turn its perennial plants into marijuana plants.
Owner Jaap Molenaar and his lawyer, Richard Evans of Northampton, expressed an interest at Wednesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting in developing a cultivation operation on Mill Village Road, where Molenaar owns three acres of greenhouses.
The local farmer is vying to be one of 35 licensed medical marijuana growers in the state.
Pioneer Gardens has produced perennial starter plants for wholesale growers and finishers since 1996. But Molenaar said he is looking to strengthen his business.
“It’s another crop that will hopefully be more steady employment for farm workers,” Molenaar said.
Marijuana plant growing or cultivation would be done in Deerfield, while the retail side or the dispensary would be housed elsewhere, Evans said.
Molenaar did not know yet how many acres he’d use to cultivate marijuana if he was granted a state license.
“It depends on the permit process and how much they allow,” Molenaar said.
Deerfield is the first town in Franklin County to receive inquiries from potential marijuana cultivators and dispensary developers.
Molenaar is one of three interested in growing marijuana in the small farm town.
Interim Town Administrator Wendy Foxmyn said she received two calls from others interested in using the Deerfield Industrial Park off Route 116 as a base.
The inquiries have prompted the town to consider a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries until local regulations governing them can be adopted. And the selectmen did request the Planning Board address the issue at Wednesday’s meeting.
The concern was whether a moratorium would be worth the trouble. The Planning Board would need to hold a public hearing and a special town meeting on a moratorium to be able to craft new zoning bylaws. Town officials questioned whether the state license process would be over by the time they finished.
Evans encouraged the town not to have a moratorium, arguing that the state already placed draconian rules on developers to ensure public health and safety.
Deerfield Health Agent Richard Calisewski, however, said the town should at least require a special permit for the multi-million dollar business due to the potential impact it could have on police and traffic.
In November 2012, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot referendum that legalized marijuana for medical use.
About two-thirds of Deerfield voters favored the legalization.
In May, the state Department of Health issued regulations to implement the law.
Potential developers have until Aug. 22 to file applications with the state during a phase one application period. Applicants would then have until the end of October to file another roughly 600-page application with the state, Evans estimated.
The state aims to start issuing licenses by the end of the year.