Local Pushback Against Worcester Medical Marijuana Dispensary
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Local resident William Breault addressed city councilors Tuesday, requesting the city investigate whether the company planning to operate in Worcester had falsified information submitted to state regulators as part of its licensing application.
Breault, the chair of the Main South Alliance for Public Safety, told GoLocal he wanted light shed on the process. “There's a lot of money involved, the public ought to know,” he said.
Good Chemistry of Massachusetts secured two of 20 provisional licenses awarded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health last month, one of which was for a dispensary located in Worcester. Organized as a nonprofit and an expansion of operations in Colorado, Good Chemistry has an option to lease agreement signed for a 3,000-square-foot former dance studio on Harrison Street.
Mistake made in Boston application
Earlier this month, Good Chemistry's chief operating officer, Jaime Lewis, admitted to discrepancies on the Boston application that included letters of non-opposition from officials in Worcester.
Breault was critical of the application process set up by state health officials, pointing to potential conflicts of interest like the relationship between state public health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett and former congressman and district attorney William Delahunt, who now leads a company that was awarded three provisional licenses in Mashpee, Plymouth, and Taunton.
“A number of former elected officials and politically connected figures are partnering with applicants who need help with the regulator process,” he told councilors Tuesday.
Speaking in advance of the evening's council meeting, Breault said he wanted officials to review the local application. “They may have boosted the application score with false claims,” he said.
Councilor Konstantina Lukes requested a report on community outreach that had been held regarding siting.
Each dispensary application was scored along the same scoresheet and signed under penalty of perjury. The licenses announced Jan. 31 are provisional and not final, and the next step in the process by the state health department involves verifying support and non-opposition in the host communities.
At the council's meeting earlier this month, Councilor Philip Palmieri made a request that the city reach out to the neighborhood where the planned dispensary is located to discuss questions and concerns in that community.
Last December, councilors unanimously approved zoning amendments that regulate the siting of dispensaries and restrict them to business, manufacturing, and medical zones with buffers from residential zones and locations where children congregate.
As district councilor for the neighborhood where Good Chemistry plans to set up shop, Palmieri met representatives in advance of their submitted proposal last fall, but he did not lend support for the proposal.
As part of the application process, the state sought local letters of support, or at minimum evidence of non-opposition. In its application, Good Chemistry included letters from Mayor Joseph Petty and former City Manager Michael O'Brien.
In his letter to the state public health commissioner, Petty describes meeting with representatives of the company, and attests to the Harrison Street site as meeting all requirements per the then-proposed city zoning.
“I am particularly impressed that Good Chemistry as (sic) expanded the Commonwealth's buffer requirements to 1000 feet from a school or park. Please be advised that I do not oppose their site or application for licensure in the City of Worcester,” Petty wrote.
O'Brien's letter to Bartlett notes the pending adoption of zoning amendments related to dispensaries and continues to say that, “if licensed, we anticipate working with Good Chemistry, Inc., and any other interested RMDs and cultivation facilities, to identify appropriate sites within designated areas of the city and assist with local permitting.”
“We appreciate the efforts of you and your team to carefully review each application and consider local impacts as we welcome this new industry in Massachusetts,” O'Brien concluded.
Breault requested that any additional letters of support or non-opposition be released to the public. “Truthfulness and transparency are essential in this process,” he said.
“This needs the light of day, this needs to be transparent.”
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