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Rec Cannabis May Arrive in Lowell in Jan.

November 27, 2018

LOWELL -- The first recreational marijuana dispensary within the city could be opening its doors to the public as soon as January.

The prediction came from representatives of Patriot Care Corp. -- the company poised to be the first to sell recreational marijuana in Lowell -- during the Mayor’s Opioid Epidemic Task Force meeting on Monday night.

The first two recreational marijuana shops in the state opened in Leicester and Northampton less than a week ago. During Monday’s meeting, Lowell’s Development Services Director Eric Slagle referenced media reports that the first day of recreational pot sales brought in more than $400,000 in total sales between the two businesses.

In April, Lowell negotiated and executed a host-community agreement with Patriot Care to convert its existing cultivation and manufacturing facility and dispensary at 70 Industrial Avenue East from medical only to combined medical and retail.

Patriot Care then appeared before the Planning Board and obtained the required approvals to have retail marijuana sales at their dispensary location. Next, Patriot Care proceeded through the state process with the Cannabis Control Commission. In September, the dispensary obtained its provisional state license.

The company also acquired state provisional licenses to grow recreational marijuana at 170 Lincoln St., as well as manufacture recreational marijuana products, such as edible candies, baked goods, hash, oils and tinctures.

Dennis Kunian, vice president of Community Affairs of Patriot Care -- who was sporting socks with images of marijuana leaves during the meeting -- and Bob Mayerson, senior executive at Patriot Care, addressed the task force Monday night.

Mayerson pointed out there are currently three other planned recreational dispensaries in the state that have been granted final licenses that he expects to open before Christmas. There are also a total of 25 dispensaries -- including Patriot Care -- that have provisional licenses for dispensary operations, and are awaiting final licensing.

“Certainly by May, I would say, all of those will be open in the state and more will be coming as we go along,” Mayerson said.

Mayerson pointed out with the company on the next Cannabis Control Commission meeting agenda later this month, the city’s first recreational dispensary could be open in January, at the earliest.

Patriot Care is a subsidiary of Columbia Care -- the largest marijuana business in the country, according to Mayerson. Columbia Care has disclosed marijuana-related business interests in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Illinois and other states.

Under the host-community agreement, the owner of Patriot Care will pay the city 3 percent of the marijuana business’ total revenues. In the host agreement with Patriot Care, it states that the community impact fee could be used for first-responder programs, drug-abuse prevention and education programs, and increased police patrols.

In addition, the retail marijuana, which can be purchased by those age 21 and older, includes a 20 percent sales tax. Seventeen percent of the sales tax goes to the state and 3 percent to the city, Mayerson said.

Mayerson also anticipates the creation of many jobs with the opening of the recreational facility. Patriot Care currently employs roughly 100 people at its facilities in Lowell.

The City Council voted to limit the number of recreational dispensaries within city borders to five, which is the minimum allowed under the Cannabis Control Commission’s regulations.

In the zoning regulations, cultivation or processing facilities, which will not include customer interaction, will be allowed in industrial districts, according to Slagle. The recreational dispensaries, where pot sales will be allowed to consumers, will be allowed in office park and regional retail districts.

The City Council has approved recreational zoning regulations. Recreational marijuana dispensaries in Lowell will not be allowed to open within 500 feet of an elementary school, middle school, secondary school, or any school or college with students under 21.

In addition to the school regulation, the zoning rules will prevent dispensaries from opening within 1,000 feet of each other. They also can not have any walk-up or drive-through service.

The building must be designed to prevent marijuana odors from leaving the property line. Also, marijuana and tobacco products cannot be smoked, ingested or otherwise consumed in the building. The applicant will have to submit a security plan that must be approved by the Lowell Police Department.

“I know it’s a very controversial process,” Slagle said. “We’ve done our best to be slow and thoughtful about it. There are multiple layers of review for all these businesses.”

Recreational cannabis is coming to the city “good, bad or indifferent,” Task Force Chairman Corey Belanger said to close Monday’s meeting. The former city councilor said he’s concerned with edibles getting into the hands of teenagers. That could lead to some teenagers elevating to other drugs, he said.

“We want to make sure these drugs are not getting to the kids,” Belanger said.

Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis

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