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Board seeks more specifics about proposed medical-marijuana dispensary

UPDATE, Oct. 25: Less than a week after an emotional forum about the effects of opioids on Arlington, selectmen discussed an application to bring the first medical-marijuana dispensaryto town -- and the area. 

Board of Selectmen logo, Jan. 23, 2013

The proposal for 11 Water St. drew cautious comments Monday, Oct. 19, as the board voted, 3-1, to seek further discussion.

Based on discussion with representative of the Massachusetts Patient Foundation, such a facility, if approved, could be two years away.

Medical-marijuana imageSome officials don't want town be first in area.

In 2012, Arlington residents supported using medical marijuana by a vote of 16,876 to 7,961 on a statewide ballot question.

Selectman Dan Dunn said that, for him, the issue involves principle and practicality.

"I'm not ready to say yes," but noted principles points to a civil-liberty and humanitarian concerns, citing an "insane set of laws," which voters in 2012 addressed.

Globe, Oct. 25: Use rising, more outlets coming

Practically, he said he wants detailed information from the applicants.

Selectman Joseph Curro Jr. said he first wants to see what is happening elsewhere -- for example, in Cambridge. He said he does not "want Arlington to be one of the first."

Selectmen Steve Byrne referred to the Oct. 13 opiate forum at Town Hall, saying the dispensary offers an opportunity for fair use of medical marijuana and "could have a strong effect in moving forward on issues of pain management."

Some differences of opinion

Chairman Kevin Greeley, saying "it took us forever to get liquor stores," said he wants input from police Chief Fred Ryan and that he would back a statement saying he does not oppose the plan.

He said Diane Mahon, who was absent, requested no vote be taken Oct. 19. Town Counsel Doug Heim recommended selectmen should vote but take "no substantial action." She has been asked comment.

The board voted to seek more information, with Curro voting no.

Representatives of the Massachusetts Patient Foundation said Cambridge has issued a site that city a letter of "nonopposition or support," adding it would not be open for two years.

According to a report in Cambridge Day, the state turned down in June 2014 an application by Greeneway Wellness Foundation for the city, but the plan was back on track by the following August. John Greene, founder and CEO of Greeneway, has been asked to comment.

Information provided by Massachusetts Patient Foundation says it seeks to use 5,000 square feet of space on the third floor of the Rowe building on Water Street, in Arlington Center. The building includes the Family Practice Group medical offices. In 1997, before it moved to Lexington, The Arlington Advocate offices were in the ground floor of that building.

Attorney representing foundation

Valerio Romano, who represents many medical-marijuana clients, spoke in the absence of Dan Karten, foundation chief operating officer. He said he had spoken with town Building Inspector Michael Byrne, who said such a facility could be situated at 11 Water.

Romano said that the foundation has been "very generous" with the communities in which dispensaries are situated.

Byrne asked, joking: "A new school?"

Romano responded that revenue from such a facility could pay for interest on a new school.

Some of the board's questions focused on security.

Romano said his office does background checks on all those coming before municipal boards.

In response to his query, Greeley was told the facility would have a guard during work hours, checking to see whether clients had proper paperwork.

Among three dispensaries open in Massachusetts -- in Northampton, Salem and Brockton -- Romano said there had been ho reported rise in crime.

Mass. called 'highly regulated'

"Massachusetts is the most highly regulated state in the nation" with regard to medical marijuana. He added that in California, where he previously worked, had increased strictures after initial laxity, in Oakland.

He said that currently those needing medical marijuana are permitted to grow small amounts for themselves as hardship cases in private spaces. If a local dispensary is approved, that would no longer be permitted, he said.

In comments before the board vote, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said approval from the Board of Selectmen is a prerequisite for a dispensary to seek state Department of Mental Health approval. He also said that because Arlington might be the first in the region to approve a dispensary, he advises a cautious approach.

Before reaching a final vote on the matter, he said all involved needed to meet again to learn the impacts of costs.

Manager Adam Chapdelaine memo to board about the proposal dated Oct. 16, 2015

I am writing to provide the Board both background information and staff recommendations regarding consideration of whether or not to approve/non-oppose the location of a Medical Marijuana Dispensary (MMD) in Arlington. An interested applicant has requested to come before the Board at its meeting on October 19, 2015 and I am providing this memorandum to assist the Board in its deliberations.

In preparation for this applicant's audience before the Board, I convened an internal meeting of the Police Chief, Town Counsel, Building Inspector, Planning Director, Acting Director of Health and Human Services and myself. The outcome of the discussion was that given the existing uncertainty surrounding the neighborhood and community impacts of a MMD, and the fact that Arlington would potentially be the first location in the immediate region that the Arlington Board of Selectmen should not approve or take a position of non-opposition at this current time. 

To be clear, staff is not recommending a permanent position, but rather a position of patience as more information and experience develops across the Commonwealth in regard to MMD's.

However, understanding that the Board may want to consider a position of approval/non­ opposition, we also discussed the process that we recommend the Board follow should it wish to move forward. 

The key points of the recommended process are as follows:

1) Request that the applicant meet with all impacted operating departments (Police, HHS, other) to determine and quantify the cost of the impacts locating a MMD.

2) Determine whether the quantified costs can be mitigated through a memorandum of agreement with the applicant.

3) Consider either a position of approval/non-opposition based on the merits of a potential agreement and the mitigation included therein.

I am also happy to answer any questions or address any concerns that the Board may have in regard to this matter. I look forward to the discussion at Monday evening's meeting.

Some of the information about the foundation provided to selectmen

Massachusetts Patient Foundation Inc. (MFP) was founded and capitalized in 2015, with the goal of providing the highest quality medical-grade cannabis to patients in Massachusetts.

MPF's vision is to create a true medical experience, based on cutting edge technologies from the retail, healthcare and agricultural industries.

The founders of MPF have long-established track records of creating and operating successful healthcare and retail businesses. MPF will use this experience to create the highest quality, pharmacy-grade dispensaries and cultivation centers with the look and feel of a modern-day apothecary.

MPF will utilize modern inventory control systems using top-of-the-line security protocols designed by the leading security firm, Lan-TelCommunications Inc. (

MPF is a mission-oriented organization with the goal of partnering with the community, medical and advocacy associations, and patient support groups to supply medicine to patients in need while giving back to the community.

Rachmil "Roma" Lekach, executive director, chairman of the board: prolific career with a focus on retail, manufacturing and distribution; co-founder of Perfumania, which sells specialty fragrances.

A. Mark Young, chief financial officer and board member; financial officer who implemented all infrastructure systems to develop New Wave Fragrances LLC, a company founded in 2007, grew to annual revenues of about $140 million by 2009 and was sold in 2012.

Rabbi Moshe Bleich, a board member who founded in 2000 the Wellesley-Weston Chabad Center, for Jewish life for Babson College and Wellesley College.

Tom Ferrell, a board member who is president of The Business Connector, a personal financial-services firm based in Salisbury.

Dr. Patricia Pike, a board member who is a doctor of chiropractic medicine.

Michael Thompson, chief agriculture officer, is the director of science and technology, director of purchasing and manufacturing, master grower and co-founder of Emerald Fields, in Colorado.

Karten, the COO who spent the prior decade owning and operating several leading healthcare enterprises. As a founder of SecureMD, a business that performs gastroenterology pathology procedures in correctional institutions, he took a business working only in only one state to a national entity within two years. The company was sold to a private equity group in 2013. 

This report was published Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, and updated Oct. 25, to add a link.

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