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Medical Marijuana

Pasiecnik plans pot-growing, dispensary site

Tells selectmen of proposed 35,000-sq.-ft center

WHATELY — Potato farmer James Pasiecnik would like to grow medical marijuana on 35,000 square feet of his River Road property and sell it from the Whately Industrial Park off Route 116.

At this week’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Pasiecnik presented for the first time his plans to open J.M. Farm’s Patient Group Inc. in Whately if he gets one of 35 state licenses to operate a medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation center.

The presentation was the next step for applicants in phase two of the licensing process for registered marijuana dispensaries. Applicants are required to get community support.

Pasiecnik is one of seven applicants who named Franklin County as “first preference” in their applications to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

A total of 181 applications were submitted by last Thursday’s deadline to run one or more of the 35 future medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts. There may be one to five dispensaries per county.

Under the nonprofit information filed in the Secretary of State’s Office by last Thursday, Nicholas Spagnola of Revere was listed as secretary and vice president and Joshua Sodaitis of Somerville was listed as treasurer and director. Spagnola and Sodaities joined Pasiecnik at this week’s meeting.

Pasiecnik and his partners didn’t have specific plans to propose yet.

“We will present more in-depth plans going forward,” Sodaitis said.

During the application process, Pasiecnik said he will share any information he has with the town.

“We can work together,” Pasiecnik said to the selectmen.

Under the state rules, a nonprofit operating a registered marijuana dispensary can apply for two grow sites and three retail sites. Pasiecnik is proposing one grow site and one retail site.

The state requires between 20,000 and 50,000 square feet for the cultivation center, which must be in a secure building like a greenhouse or warehouse.

Pasiecnik proposes 35,000 square feet. He owns 914,855 square feet, or 850 acres, on River Road.

He didn’t say whether he’d grow marijuana in a greenhouse or warehouse.

The state Department of Public Health requires the cultivation be in a locked, enclosed facility, not open to the public.

Pasiecnik and his partners wouldn’t say exactly which Whately Industrial Park building they had in mind, but only that the desired place was for sale.

“We’re not going to make any other comments until we issue a press release,” Sodaities said.

Two buildings are currently for sale in the Whately Industrial Park, which is owned by tobacco farmer Alan Sanderson.

One property at 10 Sandy Lane formerly housed Klinger Enterprises, a boat engineering company. The building is assessed at $630,000. The second property at 4 Sandy Lane is occupied by the Western Massachusetts Regional Library System, which has searched for a renter or buyer for over a year for the 10,000-square-foot building. The property is assessed at $1.6 million. The towns of Whately, Sunderland and Deerfield have looked at the library building as an option for a proposed regional ambulance service.

Neighboring buildings in the business park are Bayer Material Science, which owns an additional 11 acres of farmland, Animal Eye Care of New England and Sanderson’s tobacco farm.

If Pasiecnik does purchase an industrial park building, he would have to abide by the 17-year-old park’s covenants.

Last week, Pasiecnik said he was also interested in a vacant building in the neighboring 75-acre Deerfield Industrial Park and he would approach the Deerfield Board of Selectmen as well.

Meanwhile, an hour before Pasiecnik’s presentation, the Whately Planning Board voted to recommend a temporary moratorium on dispensaries and cultivation centers until Sept. 14, 2014 to give the town time to draft zoning bylaws that would regulate dispensaries and to review related public safety issues.

The Planning Board will ask townspeople to vote on the moratorium at the next special town meeting, which is expected in September.

One of the questions the Planning Board had, member Judy Markland said, was whether medical marijuana could be classified as agricultural use under state General Law Chapter 128 Section 1A. The state Department of Public Health is trying to determine a definition for medical marijuana.

Though Sodaitis requested the Planning Board to not implement a temporary moratorium at this point, the selectmen said they wouldn’t prevent the town planners from placing an article on a town meeting warrant.

Sodaitis suggested the town could lose potential tax dollars by not having a dispensary.

Tax dollars could be gained from income taxes from the dispensary’s new employees and meal tax revenues they can bring in, Sodaitis explained.

While the Planning Board researches zoning regulations and Pasiecnik develops his proposal, selectmen’s Chairman Paul Newlin said the selectmen are interested in keeping abreast of the development from both sides.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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