SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 3, 2014

Pot firm eyes Essex growing site

By Arianna MacNeill
Staff Writer

---- — ESSEX — A company that has gained approval for a medical marijuana dispensary in Newton has also obtained a state provisional license to set up a medical marijuana cultivation site here in town.

Garden Remedies is hoping to set up a cultivation site to grow marijuana for prescription use at a site off Western Avenue, or Route 22, near the Hamilton town line.

The town’s Board of Selectmen has already passed a resolution of non-opposition, according to Selectwoman Susan Gould Coviello. She added that the board is leaving it to the Planning Board to come up with a special permit process for allowing the company to set up shop.

Garden Remedies is also required to meet specific state regulations and guidelines to obtain a permanent license, Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki said.

Police Chief Peter Silva says he remains concerned about the idea of pot being grown in Essex and the security issues it raises.

“I think there’s many in the community that are not happy about this, nor am I, for a host of different reasons,” he said. “I just don’t know if the community is prepared for this type of thing.”

Silva said there’s a risk posed on the community with a facility of this type, and he doesn’t think the Western Avenue site would be the best location, either.

“I just think this is something that is brand-new to our state and to our community,” he said. “And I just think there are many things that are being rushed about this.”

If the facility does open, he said the town will do “what’s right and what’s lawful.”

The state Department of Health application process for handling both dispensaries and cultivation facilities follows the landslide 2012 state referendum to approve the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use. The petition carried all but two Massachusetts communities, and won “yes” votes in all four Cape Ann communities, including Essex.

Silva said he worries that the opening of such a facility here may “put a hardship on our department.”

He said he didn’t want to divulge specific concerns, but when asked, he said he’s especially concerned about someone breaking into the facility. He said he didn’t want to comment on the company’s security systems, or other potential risks to officers or the community.

“This is not your traditional business that is coming to town, and it’s not coming to town with big welcome arms,” he said. “I’m very, very concerned about a variety of issues.”

Silva said he’s heard from “countless people” that they are not in favor of the business.

“People are concerned about this,” he said. “This is not Colorado,” he added, citing a state that recently approved an overall legalization of marijuana.

Silva added that, when Massachusetts people voted initially to decriminalize marijuana, they didn’t realize that a medical marijuana cultivation site could open nearby.

“Is this really the best location for this? ... I don’t think it is. I don’t think it is at all,” he said.

A public forum back in early November with members of the planning board and a representative from Garden Remedies drew two County Road residents who were also not in favor of the facility.

“We should get together and tell the state, ‘Forget about it,’” Alfred Solombrino said at the time.

Arianna MacNeill can be reached at 978-675-2710 or at amacneill@gloucestertimes.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AriannaMacNeill.