Medical marijuana cultivation site may be coming to Athol

  • Herbology Inc., a nonprofit medical marijuana applicant, wants to establish a cultivation, manufacturing and extraction facility at this building on 134 Chestnut Hill Ave. in Athol. Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • Recorder Staff/Domenic PoliHerbology, Inc., a non-profit medical marijuana applicant, wants to establish a cultivation, manufacturing and extraction facility at 134 Chestnut Hill Ave. in Athol, home to the L.P. Athol Corporation, owned by 93-year-old Petersham resident Bill Purple.

  • Recorder Staff/Domenic PoliHerbology, Inc., a non-profit medical marijuana applicant, wants to establish a cultivation, manufacturing and extraction facility at 134 Chestnut Hill Ave. in Athol, home to the L.P. Athol Corporation, owned by 93-year-old Petersham resident Bill Purple.

Recorder Staff
Published: 10/18/2017 9:49:49 PM

ATHOL — Roughly 500 new jobs are within Athol’s reach, as the Selectboard voted Tuesday to sign a letter of non-opposition for a medical marijuana nonprofit that wants to move into the old Union Twist Drill Co. building at 134 Chestnut Hill Ave.

Becca Rutenberg, of Herbology, Inc., and Bobby Liedy, of Sea Hunter Therapeutics, sat before Selectboard members in Town Hall to explain the goal of operating a cultivation, manufacturing and extraction facility in a secure location that will not serve as a retail setting. Herbology is a nonprofit organization and medical marijuana applicant with a provisional certificate. Sea Hunter Therapeutics is a for-profit company that provides capital and intellectual property to Herbology, the license holder.

The Selectboard voted 4-1 in favor of the letter of non-opposition, with Dr. Rebecca Bialecki voting against the motion. Bialecki, the vice president of Heywood Healthcare, said she is “absolutely not supportive of marijuana as an industry.” She successfully requested that Selectboard member William Caldwell amend the wording of his motion from “letter of support” to “letter of non-opposition” because it is more neutral.

Bill Purple is the president and owner of the L.P. Athol Corp., which bought the Union Twist Drill Co. building in 1986. Purple, 93, said he is happy a growth industry is interested in the building. When asked if he objects to the nature of the medical marijuana industry, he said he does not because it is legal in Massachusetts and he compared it to other medical products.

Purple said he remembers reading a Life magazine article years ago about the benefits of tobacco smoking, which has long been identified as a cause of lung cancer, emphysema and other illness.

“So, times change,” the Petersham resident said.

Liedy and Rutenberg said Herbology operates a 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art cultivation facility in Taunton, with other locations in Cambridge and Brockton. Liedy said the Union Twist Drill’s numerous windows may pose a security concern, and he and his colleagues want public feedback pertaining to how to deal with this issue.

“We’re all about partnership with the community,” he said.

Liedy said Herbology will offer a little more than 200 jobs, starting at $15 to $17 per hour, upon moving into 134 Chestnut Hill Ave. Frank Perullo, CEO of the Novus Group, which is handling Sea Hunter Therapeutics’ and Herbology’s public relations, said the facility could host 500 to 600 jobs if other license holders are brought in.

Liedy said there will be no public access to the building and all employees will receive necessary training.

Athol Town Manager Shaun Suhoski said he will now work with the developers to negotiate a host community impact agreement that protects and benefits the town. He said Selectboard Chairman Lee Chauvette and Town Attorney John Barrett will be part of the negotiating team.

Suhoski explained the board’s vote will allow him and Chauvette to file a letter of non-opposition with the state Department of Public Health once town officials arrive at an acceptable agreement.

Chuck and Cindy Hartwell, Bill Purple’s son-in-law and daughter, said those involved with the L.P. Athol Corp. have for years been working to get the 365,000-square-foot building redeveloped as a mixed-use complex. Cindy said Sea Hunter Therapeutics reached out about three weeks ago.

“It’s a been a very rapidly progressing opportunity,” she said. “We’re very excited with the caliber of the people and the level of business that they’re intending to do. It’s a medical product. It would be like a pharmaceutical company coming to town and saying they want to make Nyquil or aspirin.”

Cindy Hartwell said the facility has only a one-way entrance, which is ideal for security. She also said there are no residential abutters.

Chuck Hartwell, the new business development director for the L.P. Athol Corp., said the facility will be used to produce nasal sprays, patches, ointments and oils. He also said he and his wife are happy the town has been so supportive.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Suhoski and Chauvette voiced their support for the endeavor.


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