ML – NORTHAMPTON — A brand-new medical marijuana dispensary located in a former Northampton physicians office is in turnkey condition, ready to open its doors, and only awaits a final Certificate of Registration from the state to start selling cannabis products, officials said this week.
Building inspectors have signed off on all local permits, including construction, plumbing, and electrical work at 118 Conz St., the future home of New England Treatment Access, according to city records. The project gained site plan approval from the Northampton Planning Board in May.
New England Treatment Access spokeswoman Dot Joyce said Monday the non-profit, headed by Swampscott resident Arnon Vered, expects it will soon receive its license from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which will allow it to begin grow operations at its facility in Franklin.
“Things are going very well,” said Joyce.
Even then, because Massachusetts law requires that dispensaries grow their first batch of marijuana from seed, there will be a several-months delay between licensure and the time the Northampton dispensary has any products to sell, said Joyce.
New England Treatment Access plans dispensaries in Brookline and Northampton as well as the Franklin grow facility. The two dispensaries are among 11 given the green light by last June to enter the final segment, or “inspectional phase,” of the state permitting process.
Department of Public Health spokesman Scott Zoback said Tuesday the inspectional phase entails numerous site visits and inspections. Applicants must demonstrate their readiness to cultivate, package, and distribute medical marijuana in a safe and secure manner that’s in compliance with all laws and regulations.
“It’s a soup-to-nuts check before final approval,” said Zoback, who declined to estimate how long it might be before a decision is reached.
Zoback explained that Massachusetts is a “seed-to-sale” state, meaning that all products sold at the Northampton dispensary must be manufactured from marijuana grown at the Franklin facility. While the first batch must be grown from seed, other propagation methods will be allowed once the original plants are established, he confirmed.
Zoback also said the final license would allow for cultivation to begin, with additional inspections needed before the two dispensaries open to the public.
On New Year’s Eve, the DPH issued its first Certificate of Registration ever to Alternative Therapies Group, Inc., in Salem. ATG is now licensed to grow, but has not yet opened its dispensary doors.
It’s been a long road for New England Treatment Access in its bid to open a dispensary in Northampton.
Of 181 original applicants, NETA was one of 20 to receive a “provisional dispensary license” in January 2014. In August, former governor Deval Patrick put the organization’s application on hold after reports that CEO Kevin Fisher had embellished his resume. Fisher stepped down, CFO Vered filled his shoes, and the DPH lifted the hold in November.
In the meantime, provisional pot licenses granted to companies associated with former Congressman William Delahunt and Springfield businessman Heriberto Flores were rescinded last summer. Flores was deemed “not responsible or suitable to operate a medical marijuana dispensary” wrote Karen van Unen, executive director of the Medical Use of Marijuana Program. State regulators told Delahunt in June that his three applications were off the table because he planned to divert excessive profits to a management company in which he had a financial interest.
The state licensing process, deeply flawed from the start, sparked more than two-dozen lawsuits, according to the Boston Globe. More than two years after Massachusetts voters approved the medical use of marijuana, not a single dispensary has opened.
The DPH had originally hoped to approved 35 dispensaries by the end of 2013.