MA: City Mulls Host Agreement For Marijuana Dispensary

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

City Councilors voted in December to send a letter of non-opposition to the state in support of bringing a medical marijuana dispensary to the city, a decision which left the dispensary, Alternative Therapies, to broker a host community agreement with Mayor James Fiorentini.

Now the city is prepared to offer its first official proposed host community agreement Tuesday.

Under the proposed agreement, Alternative Therapies would pay the city 3 percent of its annual profits for the next five years and would annually donate $50,000 to a charity of the mayor’s choosing. If the dispensary is unable to operate seven days a week, the percentage of the profit Alternative Therapies would have to pay the city would be only 2 percent.

At the conclusion of the five-year agreement, the city and dispensary would renegotiate the agreement. The renegotiation could occur even sooner, should the city bring a second registered marijuana dispensary to the marijuana zoning district established by the council’s Administration and Finance Committee in 2015.

In the event that Alternative Therapies opens another dispensary elsewhere in the state with a more lucrative host community agreement, the company and the city would renegotiate the terms of the deal.

The agreement also bars the use of marijuana or marijuana-based products on the premise of the dispensary, which would be located in the marijuana zoning district a business park off of Broadway outside of Interstate 495.

Fiorentini will be presenting the agreement, along with the official letter of non-opposition, to the same city council that voted 6-2 in support of the letter in December.

Earlier this month, Fiorentini said he had not heard from Alternative Therapies recently regarding a host community agreement. Based in Newburyport, Alternative Therapies opened the first medical marijuana dispensary in the state in 2015 in Salem.

While Alternative Therapies CEO Chris Edwards could not be reached as of press time Friday, Fiorentini said the deal is still not done, as there remains a sticking point for the dispensary.

“They’ve been very upfront that they would like to do recreational marijuana at the same time,” said Fiorentini. “The cost of building in that district is so expensive, we’re told that it is more profitable to be able to sell recreational, as well. So we’ll see.”

In December, Edwards told the council Alternative Therapies would spend $2.5 million to $3 million to bring the dispensary to a 6,000-square-foot site within the zoning district.

When asked at that December council meeting by Councilor Colin LePage whether Alternative Therapies would seek to sell recreational marijuana as well as medical, Edwards wouldn’t rule it out, but said only that Alternative Therapies would abide by any regulations imposed by the city on recreational marijuana.

LePage and Joseph Bevilacqua were the only councilors to vote against the letter of non-opposition.

According to Fiorentini, if the city and the dispensary agree to the proposed agreement, Alternative Therapies’ arrival would bring in between $200,000 and $350,000 a year.

“The agreement is non-exclusive and we’re open to talking with other dispensaries, as well,” said Fiorentini.

While Massachusetts legalized marijuana for medicinal use in 2012 and legalized it for recreational use in 2016, there is uncertainty on whether Massachusetts’ new U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling will crack down on the drug, which is still illegal under federal law.

Fiorentini said that Lelling’s presence as the state’s top federal law enforcement officer has not been a topic of discussion between the city and Alternative Therapies.