Are Towns Opposed To Marijuana Dispensaries Shooting Themselves In The Foot?

MASSACHUSETTS: Some say the advent of medical marijuana dispensaries will be like a shot of B12 for local economies, as they cash in on the excise and sales taxes they generate.

They say towns that don’t welcome these medical cannabis labs will shoot themselves in the foot while the towns that do will reap the rewards.

Still others call marijuana a gateway drug and do not acknowledge it as medical under any circumstances.

Whatever side of the fence you’re on, one thing is clear: Gateway or not, the road to building medical marijuana dispensaries appears to have plenty of gates.

And hurdles.

A prospective applicant is already at Plymouth’s gates, hoping to transform a 19,000-square-foot warehouse at 30 Industrial Park Road into a dispensary, complete with a consulting office, two dispensary offices and space for growing plants.

It all started in November of last year, when Massachusetts voters passed a measure that legalized medical marijuana. The law went into effect Jan. 1, allowing up to five dispensaries per county with no more than 35 in the state.

Since then, there’s been a quiet stampede of applicants interested in opening dispensaries because the window of opportunity is expected to close rather quickly, given the lucrative nature of this enterprise and the limited number allowed.

Plymouth’s hopeful applicant asked not to be identified until the application process with the state is complete and the town demonstrates a positive inclination toward the dispensary.

But will it?

Some residents are less than ebullient about the notion of a medical marijuana dispensary in town, and others contend that the drug shouldn’t be used, period.

The federal government agrees.

While Massachusetts has loosened restrictions on marijuana, making possession of small quantities noncriminal and allowing for dispensaries for medical purposes, the federal government has done no such thing, according to Boston Attorney Valerio Romano.

“The feds could come in and arrest everyone and put them away for 10 years,” he said. Federal criminal charges for marijuana possession include a 10-year minimum mandatory sentence for conviction of possession of 1,000 plants or 1,000 kilos of usable cannabis or a 5-year minimum jail sentence for possession of 100 plants or 100 kilos of usable pot. However, it’s highly unlikely the federal government will get involved with Massachusetts medical marijuana dispensaries.

In Massachusetts, there’s a lot of money in play. Applicants must shell out a nonrefundable $31,500 application fee and prove they have $500,000 in cash or a line of credit readily available to qualify. Background checks weed out any applicants with a criminal record. Those that make the cut will sink $1 million into the enterprise before it even begins to move into the black, Romano said. But, unlike many industries, the time frame for profitability if favorable – within one year, according to Romano.

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