By Angeljean Chiaramida
---- — GEORGETOWN — Officials are working to develop a zoning bylaw relating to the siting of medical marijuana-related businesses in town now that a company has expressed interest in locating a cultivation center on Jackman Street.
In May, Elizabeth Holland, of Medical Evolution, wrote to the Board of Selectmen requesting a slot on the board’s agenda to discuss the possibility of a medical marijuana cultivation center, potentially at an industrial building on Jackman Street. The board was to hear Holland’s presentation on July 22, but the lack of a quorum canceled that meeting, which is now postponed to Aug. 26.
Massachusetts law allows the production, distribution and use of marijuana for medical purposes, while the state law calls for up to five registered marijuana distribution licenses for each of the state’s counties, including Essex, which covers all of Cape Ann and a number of other North Shore communities.
Georgetown becomes the latest the latest of several cities and towns to try to map out zoning or other means of addressing the location of medical marijuana dispensaries. To date, however, neither Gloucester nor any of Cape Ann’s towns has held public discussions on the issue.
Brandon Tarricone, Holland’s business partner in Georgetown, said the LLC first began in Delaware and is currently in the process of incorporating in Massachusetts as a nonprofit, as is required by the state law related to medical marijuana dispensaries.
In her email to selectmen, Holland said she and Tarricone will be applying for a registered marijuana dispensary license in the state, and applicants must identify a cultivation location on the license application.
After the license is obtained, Holland wrote, the company will open a registered marijuana dispensary in Essex County, but in her email, she said the company’s interest in Georgetown is for cultivation purposes.
“We are beginning a negotiation to purchase an industrial building in Georgetown on Jackman (Street) for a cultivation center,” Holland wrote. “There would be no sales, or patients seen at the location. It would be a private and secure location, and the use of the building would be shared only on a need-to-know basis for fire, police and city officials.
“It is not our intent to open (a registered marijuana dispensary) in Georgetown, but would certainly consider Georgetown i(f) there is interest from the town,” she added.
According to Town Planner Howard Snyder, the location that Holland is referring to is in the town’s Industrial B zone, which allows light manufacturing. The area has easy access to I-95.
The company, if approved, will develop a cultivation center that would grow, harvest and process the marijuana, which includes curing, drying and packaging the substance grown within secure walls of a building, Tarricone said. The size of the facility would be between 6,000 to 10,000 square feet.
Snyder said there is also a question as to whether this type of entity falls under the same protection granted to agriculture businesses.
As the subject matter is so new, Snyder said, the process of a company locating medical marijuana-related facilities in a community is somewhat unknown territory.
Communities in the state have begun formulating bylaws dealing with the issues that can arise in such a situation, he said, or have passed temporary moratoriums to give themselves time to study and develop bylaws.
Snyder said the Planning Board will hold its first public hearing on a proposed zoning bylaw for medical marijuana businesses at 7 p.m. on Aug. 28 at Town Hall. The bylaw cannot eliminate the possibility of siting a medical marijuana business in the town, he added.
Tarricone isn’t surprised at Georgetown’s move to construct a bylaw about the new medical marijuana distribution industry. Communities across the state are doing the same, he said.
So many communities throughout the state have questions, Snyder said, that the law firm of Kopelman and Paige has developed a sample bylaw that a town can follow and adapt. The firm is the legal counsel for several Greater Newburyport communities.
In Georgetown, Town Meeting must approve zoning bylaws. The earliest that can occur is at fall Town Meeting in October.
Meanwhile, Medical Evolution made a presentation to Newbury selectmen more than a month ago, with the intent of establishing the registered marijuana dispensary in a Kent Street building in Byfield. Owned by R.J. Kelly, the building is located just off I-95. However, shortly after the presentation, Newbury selectmen received a letter from Kelly, stating that he had no intention of leasing his building to the company.
Tarricone said he and Holland aren’t dissuaded that the Newbury prospect fell through. The company is talking to people in 10 other cities and towns in Essex County and still weighing its options, he added.
Georgetown’s draft of the proposed 16-page bylaw is available for review on the Planning Department’s page on the town’s website (www.georgetownma.gov) and in the Planning Office at Town Hall.