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Whately pot shop plans hit potential road block

  • Staff Photo/Domenic PoliLeft to right, Dr. Shaukat Matin, David Horgan and Amy Royal of Irie, LLC at a community outreach meeting in Whately on Tuesday. They want to open a recreational pot shop in town.



Staff Writer
Saturday, September 01, 2018

WHATELY — A plan revised to establish a recreational marijuana facility in the Whately Health Center may be up in smoke after a Planning Board member raised doubts that the structure is adequately zoned for marijuana retail.

Judy Markland, who sits on the Planning Board, attended a community outreach meeting held Tuesday by Irie LLC, represented by Amy Royal, David Horgan and Dr. Shaukat Matin, and examined a town map displayed in the room. She pointed out that 181 State Road, the site picked for the pot shop, has agricultural/residential zoning.

Royal, Horgan and Matin seemed surprised by this information and said they would need to confirm this with Whately Building Commissioner Jim Hawkins.

“That’s important for us to know,” said Horgan, Irie’s chief marketing officer.

Whately Town Administrator Brian Domina said a two-thirds vote at Town Meeting would be required to change the zoning if what Markland said is accurate.

“We thought this was kind of done,” Matin said.

Royal, an attorney who lives in South Deerfield and is spearheading Irie, has said in the past her late mother’s battle with cancer has inspired her to open a retail pot shop. She has said her mother was often sick from chemotherapy and she wished her mother had better access to marijuana to ease her discomfort.

“Chemotherapy was really harsh on her body,” Royal said, adding that marijuana gave her mother “some quality of life in her remaining days.” She said her mother did not want to apply for a medical marijuana card because of the stigma attached to it.

Tuesday’s meeting was required by law. It was not a town-run meeting, though Town Hall provided the room.

The initial plan was for the shop to occupy the building that was most recently the “Final Markdown” discount retailer location. However, Horgan started Tuesday’s meeting by saying the slated location has changed to the Whately Health Center. He said the building at 181 State Road is better suited because it is already set up as a medical facility.

In light of the potential hiccup, Springfield-based political consultant Tony Cignoli, who works with Irie, released a statement to express gratitude for the opportunity to meet with town officials regarding the shop.

“We are reviewing the possibility of the current location’s applicability, as well as new sites, given facts presented last evening relative to the location’s current zoning,” the statement reads. “We are very committed to Whately. We have had a strong and positive response from residents and especially farmers we hope to incorporate into this effort.  We hope to create a holistic healing recreational facility in town where we can be in accordance with the proper zoning and a benefit to the area, and also provide jobs and revenue for the town.”

Horgan said Irie’s intent is to take a holistic and responsible approach to marijuana retail.

“We really want to educate on doses, advantages, safe use,” he said, adding that marijuana can be dangerous if used recklessly or by people too young. “We don’t want to see anything like that happen.”

Horgan said he is a patient and friend of Matin, a semi-retired primary care physician who has worked in Ludlow for 30 years. Matin said he has thoroughly studied marijuana and its effects on people and he believes many patients — especially the elderly — would benefit from its medicinal properties. He said many people in this country are prescribed inappropriate medications for pain, anxiety, depression and nausea. He said increasing the use of marijuana for pain management could combat the opioid epidemic

“People, if they’re educated, make good decisions,” he said.

Matin, Horgan and Royal stressed that no one under 21 will be allowed on the shop’s premises.

Domina said he is uneasy about hearing Matin profess the medical benefits of marijuana when the proposed shop would be for recreational use. Matin said he would not prescribe marijuana to patients but rather suggest they try the product under the guidance of professionals at the shop.

“Everything is for the community,” Matin said.

Royal said medical marijuana facilities will become obsolete since Massachusetts voters opted on Nov. 8, 2016, to legalize recreational use.

Horgan said the shop will have a website.