Medical Marijuana

Greenfield merchants eye Orange for med. pot site

ORANGE — M.R. Absolute Inc., a nonprofit founded by Greenfield businessman Michael Ruggeri, has submitted an application to the state to operate a medical marijuana dispensary at the Orange Innovation Center.

Selectmen voted unanimously to write a letter of support for the initiative at their meeting last week.

Ruggeri’s son, Joseph, said after the meeting that two other possible sites for the dispensary in Montague and Greenfield were also included in the application. He said selectmen in those towns supported the venture.

Ruggeri said that his family’s motivation for developing the new business is to serve patients “who have debilitating illnesses and want to use a product that is not as aggravating to their condition” as other treatments.

He said he and his father are also motivated to see the new marijuana dispensaries operated in a way that will be beneficial to the community.

Ruggeri said that with the state’s decision to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, “they are going to be opened up and we feel it is important that they are operated by professionals, who will comply with all state regulations, and who have a true stake in the community. We live here, we go to the grocery store here, we raise our children here. We are invested in this community.”

He said his family runs a package store in Greenfield. Michael Ruggeri also manages four properties in Franklin County. Joseph, who has helped broker the deal with OIC, owns and operates Ruggeri Real Estate in Greenfield.

One of the reasons Ruggeri said his father chose Orange as one of the possible locations is that the OIC’s owner and town officials were open to the idea.

All selectmen said that the comments from residents they received after the initial meeting were positive.

Selectmen’s chairwoman Kathy Reinig read from lengthy state regulations for the new dispensaries, which she said allayed many of her concerns about security and other issues that may impact the town.

According to regulations, dispensaries require monthly inspections of security equipment, which she said involves sophisticated alarm systems and safes for the marijuana.

Reinig also noted that the state put the burden of complying with regulations on the dispensary, not the town.

The regulations also allow communities to charge fees to cover the cost of town services if any are used.

As the facility will grow the product on premises, David Ames questioned whether smells will bother other tenants of the Orange Innovation Center.

Acting Police Chief Craig Lundgren echoed Ames’ concerns and asked if the smell would be off-putting to customers and patrons of the health club and bakery located in the same building.

Joseph Ruggeri responded that one option may be to grow the marijuana in freighter-sized containers. He added that if the OIC site is chosen by the state, necessary cooling and ventilation upgrades to the building will ameliorate residual smells.

Ames also asked if there would be a problem locating a marijuana dispensary in a building with other tenants receiving federal money. Medical marijuana dispensaries “are legal in Massachusetts, but they are illegal in the United States,” he said.

“That’s a bridge we would cross when the Department of Public Health reviews our application,” said Joseph Ruggeri.

Reinig said she still has “plenty of questions” about the project, such as what fees, if any, the town should charge.

But she said that she has been assured the Ruggeris are reputable business owners and there will be opportunities to work out some of the details in the future.

“Michael Ruggeri owns other businesses and is well-respected as a business owner. When you’ve got a good reputation as a business owner, that’s something that’s worth protecting.”

Joseph Ruggeri said he and his father will know if their application has been accepted by the state by the end of January.

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