Are towns ready for medical pot?
GREENFIELD — Before a medical marijuana dispensary opens in Franklin County, the dispensary owners may be asked to pay the host town thousands of dollars, give police access to security cameras or fund new police officers.
State Department of Public Health regulations allow host towns to set fee requirements to mitigate costs and the local impact of the pot business.
Today, the state is slated to award licenses to nonprofits seeking to open the state’s first registered medical marijuana dispensaries.
In Franklin County, three applicants have proposed dispensaries in Deerfield, Greenfield, Montague and Orange. J.M. Farm’s Patient Group Inc., with James Pasiecnik of Whately, A New Leaf, co-directed by Joshua and Marina Goldman of Montague and MR Absolute Medical Resources Inc., directed by Michael Ruggeri of Greenfield are competing. The state is allowed to register up to 35 medical marijuana dispensaries across the state, with at least one but no more than five per county.
While most Franklin County towns have not discussed or decided on what they would ask from the nonprofits, Deerfield town leaders have been more proactive.
In Deerfield, J.M. Farm’s Patient Group Inc. is hoping to put a dispensary in a 15,000-square-foot space at 10 Greenfield Road across from the Red Roof Inn. Selectmen’s Chairwoman Carolyn Shores Ness said the town is looking for the potential dispensary to cover all the costs that may arise for the town.
“We’re passing it on 100 percent. Whatever the costs are. We’re not subsidizing this enterprise,” Shores Ness said.
The biggest issue for Deerfield leaders is security.
The town may tie the permit to funding for two new full-time Deerfield police officers. The first position would be a new school resource officer to educate students about the dangers of drug use. Between the two public schools and three private schools, there are between 2,600 and 2,800 children in town on a single school day.
The second position would be a detective to look at drug issues in Deerfield and throughout Franklin County.
Currently, there are eight full-time police officers, including the chief that provide 24-hour, seven-day-a-week coverage.
In Greenfield, Mayor William Martin expects few issues from a dispensary.
If a dispensary opens in Greenfield, Martin said, the town would look for some assistance on the part of the nonprofit. He said the town won’t discuss greater details until it knows it is getting a dispensary.
In Montague, the selectmen has already endorsed applications from MR Absolute Medical Resources and A New Leaf. Both applicants are eying a location within Turners Falls Industrial Park.
The town hasn’t discussed what it would ask of the dispensaries.
The town is holding a special town meeting on Thursday at Turners Falls High School to ask voters to consider a zoning change that would limit medical marijuana dispensaries, nurseries and processing facilities to the town’s existing commercial and industrial zones.
Since the dispensaries are only allowed by the town by special permit, Town Planner Walter Ramsey said the permit process will give the town a chance to review any proposal.
Montague Police Chief Charles “Chip” Dodge said he has met with representatives from MR Absolute Medical Resources and A New Leaf to discuss security plans. If his town is selected, Dodge said, he would like his department to have access to the surveillance cameras. State law permits local law enforcement to have access to surveillance.
If the town asked him if he’d like funding for his department, Dodge said he would ask for funding for an additional officer.
But Dodge said his department won’t go any further until the town finds out if a developer is coming to town.
Dodge said he doesn’t expect many issues to arise from the dispensary.
“The state law is pretty strict on the security measures that have to be met,” he said.
He added that the proposed location for the two developers is in the best possible location for a dispensary within the industrial park.
“We won’t have any problems with traffic,” Dodge said.
MR Absolute Resources has looked at the Orange Innovation Center on West Main Street in Orange as a location.
Acting Chief of Police Craig Lundgren said his town is as “prepared as well as it could be.”
“I reviewed the state regulations. They are very strict and if it happens in Orange I don’t anticipate any problems,” Lundgren said.
The Orange Board of Selectmen is also waiting to find out if the town is selected.
You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.