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Medical Marijuana

Montague board endorses Ruggeri’s bid for pot dispensary

TURNERS FALLS — A prospective medical marijuana dispensary developer on Monday requested the Montague Board of Selectmen’s blessing to pursue development in town.

One of five pursuing state licenses to operate dispensaries, Greenfield businessman and liquor store owner Michael F. Ruggeri listed Greenfield in his application to the state Department of Public Health and has not publicly discussed location plans until now.

On Monday, Ruggeri asked the Board of Selectmen to support his proposal to place a medical marijuana dispensary in Montague, or to signal that the board is not opposed to it.

Following discussion, the board voted to support Ruggeri, reserving the right to also support any similar requests from others. Chairman Mark Fairbrother said he was leaning toward the “nonopposition” option, but voted for member Michael Nelson’s motion. The third member, Christopher Boutwell, abstained.

The exact location was alluded to but not disclosed.

Ruggeri said he is planning to rent a building for a cultivation, processing and dispensary facility with 10 to 20 employees and is looking at different towns in the county, in case one doesn’t work. Planning Board Chairman Ronald Sicard said the location under consideration is one his board discussed as ideal for the purpose. “Mr. Ruggeri has picked probably our poster spot,” he said.

Town Administrator Frank Abbondanzio said he was not opposed to a dispensary because Rep. Stephen Kulik’s office has assured him dispensaries will be taxable despite their nonprofit status.

Police Chief Charles “Chip” Dodge III said he had no objection now that he has heard the state’s security requirements for dispensaries.

The request comes on the heels of the Montague Planning Board’s vote last week to finalize draft zoning changes to accommodate the newly legal and previously unplanned-for dispensaries, allowing them by special permit from the Zoning Board in commercial and industrial zones. Town Planner Walter Ramsey said Ruggeri first came in to his office to float the dispensary idea a couple of weeks ago, well after the bylaws had been drafted.

The proposed zoning is more restrictive than the existing zoning but less so than the zoning suggested by the state. The proposal requires town meeting approval in order to take effect. A special town meeting has yet to be scheduled.

While some other towns have sought to stall or block medical marijuana development, Montague has been one of the relatively few to develop new zoning bylaws without enacting the one-year moratoriums permitted by the state Attorney General’s office.

Ruggeri owns Ruggeri’s Beverage and Redemption Center on Deerfield Street in Greenfield.

Ruggeri has applied for a license, one of a potential five per county, as sole officer of the nonprofit MR Absolute Medical Resources Inc.

Of the four other applicants for Franklin County licenses, three have specified towns publicly or in their license proposals.

Montague fish farm Australis Aquaculture CEO Joshua Goldman formed the nonprofit corporation A New Leaf Inc., with Marina Goldman and Susan Lowry with plans for a dispensary and cultivation center in Deerfield.

JM Farm’s Patient Group Inc., directed by farmer James Pasiecnik of Whately, Nicholas Spagnola of Revere and Joshua Sodaitis of Somerville has the support of the Whately Board of Selectmen, with plans for a cultivation facility in Whately and a dispensary in either Whately or Deerfield.

Chirag Amin of Tampa, Fla., Amar Amin and Dimpal Parikh, both of Ocean, N.J., have proposed a treatment center in Greenfield, under the name Holistic Speciality Care, without differentiating between the dispensary and cultivation operations.

Only Baystate Alternative Health Care, run by Boston-area lawyers Robert Carp of Newton and Stephen Cottens of Norwood, remains purely open-ended in the county.

The pair propose a cultivation center in Chicopee, with one dispensary in Springfield and two additional dispensaries elsewhere. They have not said where the two additional dispensaries would be, but have applied for a license to operate in Franklin County.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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