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Medical Marijuana

7 apply to sell pot in Franklin County

GREENFIELD — Out of 181 applications submitted to run one or more of the 35 future medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts, seven named Franklin County as “first preference” in their applications to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

At least one of those is a well-known local farmer, and a second local grower may also be on the list.

Potato farmer Jim Pasiecnik of J.M. Pasiecnik Farms on River Road in Whately has submitted an application to open a cultivation and dispensary center under the name JM Farm’s Patient Group Inc.

Pasiecnik has eyed both the Deerfield and Whately industrial parks as places to sell medical marijuana.

He said he will be going to the Whately Board of Selectmen’s Tuesday meeting to discuss opportunities in the Whately Industrial Park. He said he will soon approach the Deerfield Board of Selectmen to make a similar request.

Pasiecnik, a farmer for 30 years, became interested in opening his own treatment center when the state approved legalizing marijuana for medical use last November.

Pasiecnik sees a medical marijuana treatment center as a way to diversify his business further.

Besides his potato farm, Pasiecnik owns a farm stand and creamie on River Road and a trucking company. If he gets a license to grow and sell marijuana, Pasiecnik said he’d continue to grow potatoes, many of which are used in potato chip manufacturing.

For six months, Pasiecnik has worked with lawyers in Boston to prepare his application. So far, Pasiecnik has spent $30,000 on the application process.

Although the Whately Planning Board is holding a public hearing on Tuesday to consider a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana treatment centers, Pasiecnik is not worried about the process.

“It will be a momentary delay to slow it down to look into it further,” Pasiecnik said. “This is a multi-million dollar business. It’s a win-win for both sides.”

He said towns shouldn’t worry about public safety issues related to dispensaries.

“As far as more police involved in towns, I don’t think that’s necessary, because there will be security. There are the state regulations.”

Registered Marijuana Dispensaries (RMDs) must have a plan for liability insurance, and provide a list of everyone having direct or indirect authority over the dispensary. They also must provide an operational plan for marijuana cultivation, which includes: security measures, storage and transportation of marijuana and inventory procedures, quality control procedures, record-keeping measures and plans for patient education. Operation requirements include description of the various types of marijuana to be cultivated and the forms in which it will be dispensed (such as “marijuana-infused products” that include edible forms of marijuana, oils and skin ointments.) They have to have inventory protocols and methods for identifying and reporting any theft or loss of marijuana.

Only an RMD can cultivate marijuana, and all phases of cultivation must take place in a locked, limited-access area monitored by a surveillance camera system. Use of non-organic pesticides is prohibited; it must meet USDA organic standards and be tested for potency and for any possible contaminants.

According to a list posted on the DPH website, those who have applied to serve Franklin County are:

Baystate Alternative Health Care, which has also applied to serve Hampden and Hampshire counties; A New Leaf Inc.; Fotia’s Inc.; Holistics Specialty Care Inc.; JM Farm’s Patient Group Inc. MR Absolute Medical Resources Inc.; and Patriot Care Corp., which has also applied for Hampshire and Hampden counties.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether a second local grower who has expressed interest in growing medical marijuana has filed an application with the state.

Owner of Pioneer Gardens Inc. of Deerfield, Jaap Molenaar, came before the Deerfield selectmen last week to express his interest in turning his perennial plant business into a marijuana cultivation center. He has three acres of greenhouses on Mill Village Road he could use to grow marijuana. He did not know how many acres he’d use for the crop.

The marijuana cultivation wouldn’t require a special permit since it falls under agricultural use.

The retail side of the business, or the dispensary, would be done in another community. The cultivation and dispensary operations would fall under one license, Northampton lawyer Richard Evans said.

Neither Evans nor Molenaar would be reached Friday to learn if Pioneer Gardens had applied to the state under a different corporate name.

Thursday was the last day to apply, and all the applicants will be screened for background checks, nonprofit status and financial viability before those eligible for Phase 2 of the application are announced — probably in mid-September.

During the second phase, a selection committee will review the applicants and select dispensary sites through a competitive process.

The committee will evaluate and score the applicants based on appropriateness of the site, geographical distribution of dispensaries, local support and the applicant’s ability to meet the overall health needs of registered patients, while ensuring public safety.

The medical marijuana bylaw approved by voters last fall allows the state to register up to 35 nonprofit marijuana dispensaries statewide, with at least one dispensary in each county, but no more than five dispensaries in any one county.

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