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February 21, 2014

Pot dispensary permit to include special conditions

SALEM — Alternative Therapies Group cleared one of its last hurdles this week when the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals issued the nonprofit a permit to operate a medical marijuana dispensary on Grove Street.

Although the group had already been awarded a provisional license from the state Department of Public Health for its 50 Grove St. location, Alternative Therapies needed local approval because dispensaries are considered medical clinics under the city’s law.

At a public hearing Thursday night, Chris Edwards, executive director of Alternative Therapies, and its lawyer, George Atkins, explained the operation and answered questions.

Atkins noted that unlike other groups that had sought licenses from the state — including Good Chemistry of Massachusetts, which had hoped to open a site in Salem — Alternative Therapies has not turned up in the news because of possible misstatements or errors in its application.

“They haven’t been criticized like many other applicants have been,” Atkins said.

Asked about parking at the dispensary, they said they expect 10 to 15 patients an hour and will have 86 parking spaces on site.

Board members also asked for specifics about the $50,000 that Alternative Therapies has offered to the city each year as part of a host community agreement, but that agreement is still being worked out, Atkins said.

Board chairwoman Rebecca Curran expressed reluctance to issue a permit without first spelling out special conditions for it in concert with the planning department and city solicitor, but Atkins urged them to do so anyway, saying the company needs the approval to go ahead with their plans.

“We’re a long ways out, and we need to get started,” Atkins said. He said it wouldn’t be unusual for a special permit to be issued and the conditions worked out later, adding, “We’re not fearful of your conditions at all.”

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