Why Is Medical Marijuana So Popular In Worcester?
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
This according to a list released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health late last month, naming the 100 applicants for potential medicinal marijuana dispensaries who have made it through Phase 2 of the state’s exhaustive, expensive licensing process. Also included: the cities where they hope to do business.
Worcester is named by 10 different applicants, more than any other city. The county itself has 14 finalists for dispensaries, more than any other county than neighboring Middlesex, which has almost twice the population.
So, why is seemingly all of Central Mass “going to pot”?
Location, Location, Location
“That's a great question,” says Armand Riendeau. He represents Bay State Relief Inc., a dispensary hoping to set up shop in Milford. “My guess is that a mix of factors contributed to this result…Population density, the anticipated level of competition relative to other locations, and the projected need in the greater Worcester area.”
If anything, he seems a little surprised, as Riendeau senses that “patient need is relatively evenly dispersed throughout the state.”
However, real estate is not. It’s no big secret that the price of doing business is much higher in Boston that Worcester (or almost everywhere else in the U.S., for that matter). To do a heavily regulated, non-profit business that involves a $30,000 application fee, one wanting to help alleviate the suffering of chronically ill patients would need more than a big heart. They’d need very deep pockets.
And a place to do it. Worcester by some estimates has a 50 percent higher rate of commercial real estate vacancy than Boston does, especially the sort of raw, larger spaces needed to facilitate cultivation as well as dispensing. Mix in lower rents, the aforementioned population density and it could be the perfect storm.
In fact, “the inability to find a property” elsewhere is a possible reason cited by Matt Allen, the Executive Director of Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, as to why Worcester seems to be coming a magnet for medical marijuana.
But Allen is also quick to mention another factor: “A lack of government support.”
In this case, it means applicants “getting a letter from mayor, from the Board of Health, from City Council. If an applicant can’t provide one, they’ll get a lower score on the application.”
There are plenty in government who not only support the new laws but are leading groups trying to get in on it. Most famously, former Representative Bill Delahunt is part of a non-profit group that has several applications still in the running. Locally, former Worcester sheriff Guy Glodis is part of a group attempting to open a dispensary (though not in Central MA but in Revere).
Attempts to reach both Delahunt and Glodis for comment were unsuccessful.
However, roughly one-third of the Commonwealth’s cities and municipalities have moratoriums preventing medicinal marijuana dispensaries from opening. Some towns have even passed such moratoriums during the application process, making where to set up shop a bit of a moving target for some applicants. As a result, Worcester seems to now find itself in line for dispensaries other communities are intent to miss out on.
The DPH is scheduled to release its list of licensees in late January. It’s a phase that can’t come fast enough for Allen.
“It will then be several months before dispensaries open their doors to patients, since they will need to complete any necessary construction and actually grow the medicine.” He adds, “a lot of focus has been on economic development issues and the MM industry. The real issue is, it’s about care for suffering patients.”
Related Slideshow: The Highest Marijuana Prices in New England by State
The "crowdsourced" website, The Price of Weed, uses consumer input to show how much an ounce of marijuana costs -- by location.
Below are the rankings of New England states, from lowest price reported for "medium grade" marijuana, to highest, along with the number ("n") submitting data.
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