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February 1, 2014

State OKs Salem marijuana dispensary

SALEM — The state has given a non-profit group the green light to open a medical marijuana dispensary on Grove Street.

Alternative Therapies Group was one of just two applicants in the county and 20 across the state to successfully negotiate the Department of Public Health’s stringent, two-phase application process, which was instituted after voters approved medical marijuana in 2012.

The group’s proposed site is the ground floor of 50 Grove St., a three-story brick building just down the street from the Moose lodge.

However, before Alternative Therapies can open up shop — something it hopes to do by Aug. 1 — it needs to get approval from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals. The board is scheduled to consider the matter this month.

Chris Edwards, executive director of Alternative Therapies, said yesterday the 4,000-square-foot site would host a pharmacy, patient meeting rooms, a waiting room and office space, in addition to an area for security and product preparation. All of the marijuana sold at the site would be grown at an outside facility, likely in Amesbury.

Edwards said he and his team had met with neighbors of the property and the Mack Park Neighborhood Association.

“Our role has really been educating people about the state’s program and how it differs from other states’ programs,” he said. “We certainly encountered some resistance, but ... typically, we have turned them around. I’m not going to say 100 percent of the time, but pretty regularly.”

Rose Mary O’Connor, chairwoman of the Mack Park Association, agreed with Edwards’ take on the encounter.

“I would say everybody at that meeting did a 360 turnabout from original thoughts on it, myself included,” she said. “Being educated on what it’s all about cleared up a lot of misconceptions.”

O’Connor said the association is not opposed to the dispensary.

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