NORTH ATTLEBORO — A medical marijuana operation hoping to set up shop in North Attleboro made its pitch to selectmen Thursday, promising tight management while facing skepticism from some officials.
Hope Heal Health wants to put a cultivation facility and dispensary in the industrial park, one of a few spots where town zoning permits cannabis to be grown and sold.
The nonprofit, led by CEO and President John Rogue, has worked out an agreement on a location, but needs a letter of either support or non-opposition from selectmen before seeking final approval from the state.
Rogue touted the checks that Hope Heal Health would put in place to ensure a secure, above-board operation. About 80 cameras, accessible by law enforcement, would monitor the facility. For security, they said they prefer to hire retired local police officers. Patients would need two forms of identification to enter the facility.
The cultivation component would house as many as 1,600 marijuana plants. Rogue projected that a host agreement guaranteeing host communities 3 percent of revenue would bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to town. An additional 1 percent would go to local charities.
After three years, he projected the cultivation facility and dispensary would draw more than 100 jobs to North Attleboro with an average salary of $45,000 with benefits. Veterans and residents, Rogue said, would be prioritized.
The same team has run a cultivation facility for the past 18 months in Warwick, R.I., which they say so far has drawn no calls to police. Town Planner Nancy Runkle, selectmen Chairman Patrick Reynolds, and members of the planning board toured the location earlier this year, and came away with mostly positive impressions.
The proponents faced vocal resistance from state Sen. Richard Ross, R-Wrentham, who from a seat in the audience warned that a medical marijuana facility would open the door to recreational use in town, should a November ballot question pass in Massachusetts.
“I’m not going to call you a front, but it’s almost a front,” Ross said.
Ross was part of a bipartisan team of state legislators who traveled to Colorado in January to examine the impact of legalized recreational marijuana.
He came away from the trip horrified by the appeal of some products to children, the potency of new strains and the threat posed by high drivers, for whom there is no easy breathalyzer-style test.
“The commercialization has crippled Denver,” he said.
Ross, who voted in favor of legalizing medical marijuana, suggested that advocates had always sought the bigger payday of recreational weed, and had taken advantage of people’s compassion in emphasizing cancer patients and others who use marijuana for relief.
Rogue did not deny that he hoped to expand to recreational use, should voters approve it at the polls this fall. But, he said any recreational operation would be separate from the medical nonprofit, and would have to go through a separate approval process.
Selectman John Rhyno resisted the proposal, arguing that marijuana needed more study before the town should introduce it.
But Selectman Paul Belham said that in light of the town’s budget woes and a lack of state support, selectmen had a responsibility to residents to consider the proposal to bring in revenue.
Town Administrator Michael Gallagher expressed concern that a “medical” operation included no medical doctors on the team. Rogue said it was not standard for medical marijuana facilities to be run by doctors.
Selectmen decided to take 45 days to weigh recommendations from different parties before making their recommendation.
Hope Heal Health is exploring several other potential locations in Massachusetts, including Brockton.
ANDREW DOERFLER can be reached at 508-236-0340, at email@example.com and on Twitter @SCNAttleboro.