MANSFIELD — Selectmen approved a letter of support for the area’s first medical marijuana dispensary Wednesday night, paving the way for opening of the facility on West Street in the Cabot Business Park.
CommCan, the Millis non-profit that applied for the location, needed the letter of support or non-opposition from local officials as part of a state licensing process.
The dispensary still requires several layers of local and state approvals.
Selectmen approved the letter of support, 4-1, with board members George Dentino, Olivier Kozlowski, Frank Delvecchio and Doug Annino voting in favor. Selectman Jess Aptowitz voted no.
Supporters cited the medical need for marijuana-based medicines to treat pain, and CommCan’s plans to provide security in the form of cameras and a security person.
“We’re doing something in a medical climate that can keep pain away from people,” Dentino said.
Annino said the planned dispensary would have far greater security and monitoring than other locations where drugs are sold.
“You can go to a drug store and get a much stronger drug with much less security,” he said.
Aptowitz said he was concerned about marijuana being used illegally, and said area patients who need marijuana-based remedies already have access to them from existing dispensaries.
“I’m concerned about abuse,” he said. “There’s a dispensary in Brockton. People in our area who need it could go there.”
Currently, the state has six approved medical marijuana dispensaries, but only one in Southeastern Massachusetts.
MassMedicum was granted provisional approval for a Taunton facility in 2014, but has not yet received final approval to sell medical marijuana.
Other operating dispensaries are in Ayer, Brookline, Northampton, Lowell and Salem.
Beacon Compassion Center applied last year to open a dispensary in Foxboro, but the Walpole-based nonprofit dropped the bid after selectmen took no action on the proposal, effectively blocking it.
CommCan officials, who appeared before selectmen last week, said the proposed dispensary in Mansfield would sell medical marijuana under tight security and only to patients who obtain a state medical use of marijuana identification card.
No use of marijuana products would be allowed on site.
No marijuana would be grown at the Mansfield location.
While the dispensary would be operated by the non-profit, it would pay property taxes. In addition, dispensaries have negotiated host agreements in other locations that include paying additional fees to the municipality.
Last week, three residents submitted letters opposing the facility, calling it a bad fit for suburban Mansfield, while one resident spoke out in favor of the dispensary.
DelVecchio said he had received several comments in the past week from residents, and that sentiment ranged “about 50-50.”
Mansfield voters overwhelmingly approved a 2012 state referendum authorizing medical marijuana.
Despite Wednesday’s approval, CommCan still requires votes by the town planning and zoning boards, as well as final approval from the state before it can open a facility in Mansfield.
Valerio Romano, a lawyer representing CommCan, said it would likely be late 2017 before the facility could open. CommCan is also proposing dispensaries in Millis and Southboro.
Romano said the non-profit must also submit a siting profile to the state describing its plans for the Mansfield dispensary.