By Charlie Breitrose
A group already approved to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Watertown now seeks to also sell its products for recreational use, too.
Natural Selections (NS AJO Holdings Inc.) appeared before the Town Council’s Economic Development and Planning Committee to discuss the application.
They will need to get a special permit approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals, sign a host community agreement and get approval from the State’s Cannabis Control Commission.
East End Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis opposed approving a medical marijuana facility at 23 Elm St., and said she is also against allowing a recreational dispensary there.
"I think this particular location is isolated. It is behind a hotel and there is not visibility," Kounelis said. "This is not an appropriate location. It is a residential area. ... Whether it abuts a garage or abuts a house, it is someone's home. We need to respect homes in these nooks and crannies.”
Some expressed concern about an adult-use dispensary being inundated with customers when it opens in Watertown, like what was seen at dispensaries in Northampton and Leicester when they opened last November. Others brought up the lines and parking problems seen at the recreational dispensary in Brookline.
Aidan O'Donovan, chief operating officer of Natural Selections said the rush was seen because the ones in Northampton and Leicester were the first in Massachusetts to open for adult use. Ultimately, he said, Watertown could be surrounded by dozens of dispensaries. Belmont has approved up to two; Cambridge (eight); Somerville (12); Newton(eight); Waltham (four); and Boston will allow up to 52.
New Sensations may be the first group to submit an application to open an adult-use marijuana facility, but the town has been approached by a number of other people interested in opening one, Magoon said. He put them into two groups, those who think it's an interesting idea but have little knowledge of the industry, and those who know the rules and regulations and have identified a site they want to use.
Even when they have a site, the process can be complicated. Magoon said some have had a site in mind, but other things have gotten in the way. For instance, any property owner who has a mortgage on the property backed by FDIC, a federal program, cannot rent to a marijuana because it is still against federal laws to do so.
O’Donovan has been asked about why the medical dispensary has not opened yet.
"We had a few people say that since we got the medical permit we have been sitting on it for a couple years," O'Donovan said. "Our experience prior to this was the municipal process takes longer, but in this case it was the state."
The facility has been remodeled and is ready to open for business, but first, New Sensations needs to be able to open the facility in Fitchburg in which it will grow the marijuana it will sell. This has been the sticking point.
"For most of 2018, we have been calling regulators to come inspect the facility so we can check the next box, and we have been burning a lot of money," O'Donovan said. "We have been trying to check all the boxes for the CCC but it has been total chaos down there."
The fastest possible timeline for New Sensations to open its dispensary on Elm Street would be March 2020, O'Donovan said, but it will likely be at least six months later.