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City Task Force to Get Update on Recreational Marijuana Shops

November 26, 2018

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LOWELL -- Less than a week after the first two recreational marijuana dispensaries opened in Massachusetts, a city task force Monday evening will receive updates on when pot shops could open down the street.

The Lowell Mayor’s Opioid Epidemic Task Force will also hear from Patriot Care, Corp. representatives, who are poised to be the first to sell recreational marijuana in the city.

The meeting was initially going to take place at Patriot Care’s medical marijuana facility at 70 Industrial Avenue East, but the Cannabis Control Commission told the company they would not allow that amount of non-medical card holders in the facility at one time.

As a result, the task force will meet in the Mayor’s Reception Room at City Hall at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

“There’s so much unknown about recreational marijuana, so we wanted to address it,” said Task Force Chairman Corey Belanger.

Last week, the first two recreational marijuana shops in the state opened in Leicester and Northampton.

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

Belanger 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,” said Belanger, a former city councilor.

Columbia Care, LLC is the parent company of Patriot Care. 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, increased police patrols and more.

The City Council has voted to limit the number of dispensaries to five -- the minimum allowed under the Cannabis Control Commission’s regulations.

The City Council has also 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 could not have any walk-up or drive-through service.

Further, 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.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.

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