Amherst Select Board approves third letter of support for medical marijuana dispensary

By Patricia Leboeuf

(Paul Chibeba/Daily Collegian)
(Paul Chibeba/Daily Collegian)

At its regularly scheduled meeting Monday, the Amherst Select Board voted to issue a letter of support to GTI-Massachusetts, a medical marijuana dispensary organization, for its proposed site at 169 Meadow St.

This was the third request for support the board received this year. On Feb. 1, the board issued a letter of support for MassMedicum Corp. regarding its proposed dispensary at 85 University Dr., said Debra Puppel, assistant to the town manager.

The board voted on Feb. 22 to issue another letter of support for Mass. Alternative Care’s proposed site at 55 University Dr., Puppel said.

The town had been approached by at least six entities regarding establishing a Registered Marijuana Dispensary in Amherst since before February, according to a Jan. 29 memo from Jeff Bagg, senior planner, to the Select Board.

Matt Levine, director of GTI – Massachusetts, and Anthony Georgiados, director/COO of GTI-Massachusetts, along with the organization’s attorney, Thomas R. Reidy, presented their case to the board.

The proposed medical marijuana dispensary would be located in a light industrial district area, which is allowed with a special permit from the zoning board, Reidy said. Light industrial districts provide opportunities for certain light manufacturing, wholesaling, warehousing, and similar activities, according to the town of Amherst website.

The site’s location would prevent the dispensary facilities from being concentrated in any one area of the town, per the zoning bylaw, he said.

The dispensary’s probable number one priority is security, said Levine. In the medical marijuana dispensary on the North Shore of Chicago, 100 percent of the building is covered by security cameras broadcasting 24/7 feed to the police. Access is controlled at every segment of the building, he said.

GTI is based in Chicago, Georgiados said.

Andy Steinberg, select board member, expressed concern about local management of the facility, as Georgiados and Levine are not residents of Massachusetts. He also questioned the representatives about whether or not GTI is a nonprofit organization.

The other two applications the board received had substantially greater managerial representation within Massachusetts, and had documented intention to have medical professionals — physicians or pharmacists — as part of management. He called dispensaries a business that the state expects to be operated and managed carefully.

Levine, who is from Sharon,  said that he will try to come back as much as possible, and hire the right people “on the ground” with Georgiados.

GTI is a for-profit company, while the entity in Massachusetts would be a nonprofit affiliate of GTI, Georgiados said.

The facility would be cultivating and processing marijuana in West Springfield on a built to suit site, Georgiados said.

Steinberg recommended that the board delay voting on the matter until it requested an opinion from the town council about the validity of the organization’s corporate structure.

Chairwoman Alisa Brewer said that letters of support do not state any opinion about whether or not the organization meets regulatory requirements on things like corporate structure.

“I don’t have any idea why that would be our problem,” she said.

Three select board members — Doug Slaughter, chairwoman Alisa Brewer and Connie Kruger approved the motion. The fourth member, Andy Steinberg, voted against the motion.

The fifth member of the board, Jim Wald, was absent due to illness.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @leboeuf_trisha.