BY JENNIFER SOLIS
---- — NEWBURY — A registered marijuana dispensary may soon be coming to a commercial complex off Interstate 95 in Newbury.
Elizabeth Holland and Brandon Terricone of Medicinal Evolution — a nonprofit corporation planning to apply for one of the licenses the state Department of Public Health will soon be issuing — told selectmen this week they feel office space at 12 Kent Way is the ideal spot to run their business. The site is near an already established fertility clinic and a self-storage facility in a spot that is centrally located for much of Essex County.
Selectmen discussed the plans briefly but will wait to weigh in until after the company has a chance to meet next month with the town administrator, Planning Board and law enforcement officials. But even before the plan was brought before town leaders, some residents were already objecting to it.
Under a new medicinal marijuana law adopted by Massachusetts voters last November, up to 35 dispensary licenses will be distributed to businesses around the state based on population, with at least one license issued per county.
In Essex County, 61 percent of voters approved of the medical marijuana ballot initiative last fall.
Holland, who is co-founder of a local biotech company, and Terricone, her nephew, have been proactively meeting with town leaders throughout Essex County to explore possible sites for a dispensary should the state issue them a license.
“Finding locations that we feel are appropriate has been extremely difficult, and we feel that the option we presented in Newbury is well suited for both our needs and the town,” Terricone said following Tuesday’s meeting. The business partners also met recently with Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday to explore a possible site in the city’s industrial park, and they are in talks with Georgetown officials about installing a cannabis cultivation center in that town where the plants will be grown.
The plan is to offer “top quality, organic medical grade cannabinoid medicaments” within a small, secure office space accessible only to patients with state-issued medical marijuana cards and guarded by a “casino grade security” team, Terricone said. The facility will offer a “clean, professional, welcoming atmosphere” and fully comply with Massachusetts’ regulations, seen as some of the strictest in the country when it comes to medicinal cannabis, he said.
He noted that one of the more common misconceptions about these types of dispensaries is that users will go to a facility just as a way to obtain the drug legally. But at Medicinal Evolutions “there will be absolutely no consumption on site and no loitering of any kind around our facility.” The firm will have drug counselors on hand to advise on usage and, when medically indicated, will promote use of vaporizers, edibles and other non-combustion delivery options.
“This will not be a tie-dye, hippie-style business,” Tarricone said. He anticipates that the vast majority of his clients will be middle-aged people or older folks with debilitating diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s disease who seek an alternative to addictive pharmaceutical painkillers.
“Cannabis has been proven to treat symptoms of many serious diseases; and if a sick patient is helped through the use of a natural plant, they should have safe access to quality products,” he said. “We constantly hear that cannabis gives them a way to live their life normally again, without the side effects of these heavily addicting drugs.”
Medicinal Evolution plans to donate a percentage of its revenue to local nonprofits and for discounts for low-income patients.
But in an email to selectmen dated June 25, residents Melanie and John Horne “strongly” opposed the idea, saying it would brand the town “solely as the location for a marijuana facility” and negatively impact property values. George and Joan Morse and Paul Piraino also issued written objections.
The two business partners acknowledged this is “new and sensitive” territory for the community. While they are not legally required to do so, Holland and Terricone repeatedly stressed that they want to address any concerns head on and would ideally like approval from town leaders for the site they have chosen.
“In order to make it work properly for everyone, we want to communicate with our community … The stakes are too high for both the patients in need and for our nonprofit business to get off the ground,” Terricone said.
The licensing process is heavily regulated and expensive — it will cost Medicinal Evolution $30,000 to apply for a license and another $50,000 annually to maintain it.
“Like most things, we know there will always be some opposition, but we believe that most people’s fears will be subdued after they have a realistic understanding of what our business will actually be like. After all, 69 percent of Newbury supported the law and we want people to know we will be doing this right,” Terricone said.