Medical Marijuana

Whately selectmen support farmer’s pot plan

Pasiecnik says operation would employ 60 to 80

WHATELY — For 15 years, Michael Tutun of Whately has helped his sister cope with a severe case of Lyme disease.

After misdiagnosis and attempts with other medication and alleviation, Tutun discovered medical marijuana in the form of juice helps his sister live her life.

Megan Gregory, 24, of Deerfield, was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 18 years old. After radiation treatment and a relapse, Gregory tried medical marijuana in a vapor form to help in her recovery.

The treatment allowed Gregory to continue her daily business. And she has been cancer free for 4.5 years.

Scott Simpter, 25, of Deerfield, severely hurt his back six years ago and has since relied on medical marijuana to ease his pain.

The three medical marijuana patients sat in the small Board of Selectmen’s meeting room inside the Center School Tuesday for an hour to advocate that the town leaders support a proposal by Whately potato farmer, James Pasiecnik, to open one of the state’s potential 35 medical marijuana dispensaries in the town industrial park.

With little persuasion needed, the board unanimously agreed to support Pasiecnik’s proposal.

At the same time, the board also supported the town Planning Board’s request for a temporary moratorium to give the town time to draft any zoning regulations regarding the coming medical facilities.

With its agreement, the Whately board became the first Franklin County town to welcome a medical marijuana dispensary within its borders.

At the board meeting, Pasiecnik and his partners Joshua Sodaitis and Nick Spagnola asked the board for its blessing to set up a medical pot operation in town if it is granted a state license.

“I’m looking to grow medical marijuana in Whately,” Pasiecnik said. “I’ve been here all my life. I’ve done a successful farming business. That’s what I want to continue to do. We’re looking for your support.”

On the November 2012 ballot question, 68.4 percent of Whately voters supported legalizing marijuana for medical use.

Pasiecnik’s nonprofit operation would be called JM Farm’s Patient Group Inc. The nonprofit’s cultivation facility would be located at 207 River Road on Pasiecnik’s property.

“Our only purpose is to serve some of the sickest individuals in our community by providing them quality doctor-recommended medicine,” Sodaitis said.

Pasiecnik wasted little time in lobbying for local support.

A day earlier, the state announced 158 of 181 applicants passed the first phase of the application process and could move on to the second and final phase. Pasiecnik and four other nonprofits are still in the running to open a site in Franklin County. Each of the state’s 13 counties is required to have at least one license and no more than five.

Getting community support is one of the criteria required by the state Department of Public Health in phase two of the application process.

While Pasiecnik first disclosed his proposal to the board in August, this week he provided more details of his plan. Pasiecnik’s lawyers in Boston, Vicente Sederberg LLC, will provide a specific site plan in the next few weeks.

Sodaitis said the nonprofit plans to employ between 60 and 80 people to operate the facilities and contract with a local security firm, insurance agent, architect, electrician and plumber.

JM Farm’s Patient Group would pay all applicable local, state and federal taxes and if it qualifies it would participate in a payment-in-lieu of taxes program to ensure it pays its fair share of taxes.

“We will be good corporate neighbors,” said Spagnola. “We want to give back and become an integral part of our community. We aim to promote the health, safety and general welfare of the inhabitants of Whately.”

The nonprofit partners also requested the board abandon the proposal for a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana treatment centers.

But the board agreed it could support both Pasiecnik and the Planning Board’s request.

“I feel I can be supportive of your venture and the temporary moratorium to give us time to understand the regulations better,” Selectman Joyce Palmer Fortune said.

Selectmen’s Chairman Paul Newlin suggested if there was no moratorium that J.M. Farm’s submit a written agreement to comply with any new zoning laws, but Sodaitis said he’d have to check with their lawyers.

Selectman Jonathan Edwards, however, questioned whether a moratorium was necessary.

Later in the evening, the board voted 2-to-1 to give its recommendation to the moratorium on the town meeting warrant with Edwards dissenting.

On Oct. 15 the townspeople will be asked to authorize a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries that would expire Sept. 30, 2014. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Whately Elementary School.

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

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