Brad Zerman (left) and Doug Deschenes at the May 10 Board of Selectmen meeting.

Selectmen Postpone Action On Marijuana Dispensary Letters

A pair of registered marijuana dispensary proposals came before the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday night, but it appears they will have to return again sometime in the near future.

Neither Seven Point of Massachusetts or Nature’s Remedy received a letter of non-opposition or support from the board, which requested more time to research the ramifications of what that letter might mean for the community.

The two applications had separate hearings that shared an overarching theme for both the applicants and concerned residents.

Brad Zerman (left) and Doug Deschenes at the May 10 Board of Selectmen meeting.

Brad Zerman (left) and Doug Deschenes at the May 10 Board of Selectmen meeting.

Representatives of both companies stressed the stringent level of security needed, with Seven Point Founder and CEO Brad Zerman touting bonafides in his other role as a CEO of a national ATM company, which required comprehensive oversight as well as expertise with managing armored cars and other security measures.

Valerio Romano, attorney for Nature’s Remedy, also noted his client’s proposal would likely create five to 15 jobs and property tax revenue. On that point, Romano said that all registered dispensaries are required to be non-profit organizations in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but they are still ineligible for federal non-profit status. However, he said his client would still offer to pay property taxes, even if they were not legally required to do so in the future.

Romano also said an agreement for additional considerations to be given to the town would be readily granted by his client.

Several residents voiced concerns over the proposals. Uri Blumenthal of Plain Road voiced preference for the Nature’s Remedy proposal due to the fact that it would be located in a stand-alone facility at 317 Littleton Road, the former site of R.J Bradley Bike and Ski.

However, he was worried about patient safety and traffic issues at both sites and also was skeptical on the impact to local property values.

Seven Point has proposed a facility at 3 Lan Dr., where Zerman told the board that tenants within the building offered feedback on the proposal, earning the respect of the building’s landlords as well.

“We were unsure at first, but we’ve been working with them for months,” said Kevin Eriksen, counsel for RAVentures, owners of 3 Lan Dr. “I’m very impressed with them.”

Unlike 317 Littleton Rd., the proposed facility on Lan Drive would require modifications to the building such as a new door separating patients from those entering the building for other purposes, and a new entrance for deliveries into the building.

The efficacy of medical marijuana’s health impacts met with mixed feedback. Peg Nicosia of Abbey Road told the board she was using phenobarbital to control her seizures, but hoped to transfer to cannabis to avoid further bone loss and arthritis from her current medication.

Others, such as Sue Higgins of Sherwood Drive challenged claims that the dispensaries could help fight opioid addiction and would only increase drug usage overall.

“If we accept medical marijuana in our town, our students who we are telling to say no will get mixed messages,” said Higgins. “We’ve said no to Walmart, we’ve said no to drive-ins and yes, there will be a criminal element that will prey on Westford.”

Ultimately, there was some confusion on what was to come out of this point in the process. Seven Point representative Doug Deschenes described the request as merely an acknowledgement that his applicant met Westford’s zoning bylaws and the proposal was an allowed use within the specified zoning overlay district.

However, in Westford’s zoning bylaws, only one dispensary can be allowed, and it was unclear what would happen if both dispensaries received letters of support. It was also unclear what might happen if one applicant received support over another or if the board said no to an applicant despite them meeting those zoning conditions.

Deschenes told the board litigation could occur, but acknowledged that towns across the state are heading into uncharted territory with this process, since it is only part of the Massachusetts’ Department of Public Health application process.

“These laws are new; a lot of people are learning as they go. Towns are certainly learning as they go,” he said.”

To date, Massachusetts dispensaries have been opened in Brockton, Brookline, Salem, Lowell, Ayer and Northampton.

If a letter is issued to one or both proposed dispensaries, that would allow them to continue the application process with the Massachusetts Department of Health, which would then be followed by additional review from the Planning Board.