Amherst invites three pot companies to ink pacts

  • Amherst Town Hall

Staff Writer
Published: 11/28/2018 1:01:12 PM

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported an aspect of the terms of the host community agreements being negotiated. These agreements can seek community impact fees of up to 3 percent of gross sales, in addition to the 3 percent tax Amherst already adopted under state law.

AMHERST — Three shops that could sell recreational marijuana in Amherst are being invited to enter into host community agreements with the town.

RISE at 169 Meadow St., Mass Alternative Care at 55 University Drive and Herbology Group Inc. at 422 Amity St. have been informed by town officials that they are welcome to sign the pacts.

While none have done so yet, each will need to come to an arrangement with the town before applying for approval from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission to begin selling cannabis products, and then obtaining any local permitting needed.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said town officials, including Economic Development Director Geoff Kravitz, drew up boiler plate agreements that will include the town receiving a 3-percent community impact fee on marijuana sales. These agreements are modeled after one the city of Northampton has with New England Treatment Access, the lone Hampshire County recreational shop that opened for business last week.

“We’re comfortable with the terms we’ve sent to them,” Bockelman said.

If the companies accept the deal, they will move another step toward opening. Bockelman said he is also willing to negotiate the terms if the companies have concerns about the agreements.

The invitations went out after the Town Review Team made recommendations from among five companies that submitted proposals. The companies held mandated community outreach meetings and met with members of the team.

Originally, the town had six responses, but one company withdrew because its location was within 300 feet of a building where children commonly congregate.

The ones not recommended at this time are 365 Recreational Cannabis, which has eyed 37 Boltwood Walk, a former yoga studio and juice bar, and MassMedicum, which would locate at 85 University Drive in a vacant building built specifically for its use.

In a memo to Bockelman sent earlier in November, the review team reported that “recommendations are based on a holistic evaluation of the potential operator’s submittal, the community outreach meeting, and the Town Review Team meeting.” The team cited factors that included location and its consistency with the town’s master plan, the quality of the educational materials related to legal and responsible marijuana use, the consistency with community values, such as respect to diversity, equity and sustainability, and the economic value, experience and uniqueness of the proposal.

While it’s uncertain when the first shop will open in Amherst, RISE, the lone medical marijuana dispensary in operation in town, may be the closest, since the North Amherst building has already been renovated for both medical and recreational sales.

Herbology would convert Rafter’s Sports Bar & Restaurant, which could require some work since the business is still open.

Mass Alternative Care would use the space most recently occupied by The Hangar before the latter business moved to 10 University Drive. The review team noted once concern about this proposal is there is no dedicated private space for consultations with patients who need medical marijuana.

The review team was made up of Select Board member Constance Kruger, Police Chief Scott Livingstone, Planning Director Christine Brestrup, Health Director Julie Federman, and Kravitz.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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