MA: Marijuana Takes Center Stage At Monday’s Somerset Town Meeting

Photo Credit: Cresco Yeltrah

The Monday, March 19, special Town Meeting warrant lists just four articles.

But folks thinking they’ll be back for a slightly late dinner after the 6 p.m. start at Somerset Berkley Regional High School may get a little hungry.

Two zoning bylaw changes, one related directly to marijuana and the other indirectly, could generate varied opinions and lively debates.

Article 2 ties into licensed recreational marijuana facilities that can begin filing applications to the state on April 1 and for which licenses can begin to be issued on July 1.

The incorporation of recreational marijuana into the pre-existing medical marijuana bylaw that requires a special permit in Somerset’s industrial zones is an incorporation of the new state law.

Article 3, however, would trigger setting up a large-scale growing and dispensary facility for marijuana by rezoning 6.7 acres on Brayton Point Road near a commercial sector of Route 6.

The new developers, Solar Therapeutics Inc., a non-profit company of diverse professionals in Quincy, say their location is appropriate and the tax revenue and jobs they’d produce would greatly benefit the revenue-strapped town.

Solar Therapeutics CEO Ed Dow III of Bourne said their first phase of rebuilding and converting almost half the 66,000-square-foot building would produce “upwards of $250,000” in annual tax revenue.

With a long-term lease they would invest $7 million in the first phase for a growing and distribution plant.

The generated town funds are based upon paying 3 percent of revenues for the first five years and the non-profit paying full real estate and personal property taxes, Dow said.

They’d bring 25-30 mostly good-paying jobs, with prospects of adding nearly twice as many jobs and considerably more revenue in a future second phase, Dow said.

Through long-time property owners and petitioners Brayton Point Realty Inc. led by Ronald Rapoza of Somerset, they require a two-thirds majority vote to rezone the 1400 Brayton Point Road property from Business to Industrial.

If the zone was Industrial or Light Industrial, a facility for medical marijuana currently could be set up with a special permit.

On expanding to recreational marijuana after state regulations go into effect, Dow, said, “I think anyone who is in this industry you have to look forward.”

Their written presentation summary says they have five doctors involved that seek medicinal cannabis as a safe alternative to opiates. One is an advisor, Dow said of Dr. Ronald Rapoport, whom he said “speaks worldwide to the benefits of medicinal cannabis” and is a prominent Fall River rheumatologist.

Dow and the petitioners’ lawyer who presented their plan to the Planning Board last week emphasized the industrial aspect of the 24-foot tall building and infrastructure.

“There are high-pressure gas lines everywhere,” said Dow, calling the structure opposite Somerset Subaru and the town highway department “a monster facility.”

That includes thousands of solar arrays erected on the roof and on the adjacent land. That presence was why Dow said he changed their company name to Solar Therapeutics in December when issuing a letter of intent to state health officials to operate a medical marijuana dispensary.

Dow said initially when contacting The Herald News it was not their intent to displace others. He said that was after supporters of Community Connections Inc. working with disabled adults and smaller athletic operations renting space spoke out and sent a letter to the Planning Board objecting to the zone change.

“We’re going to make every effort to find them a suitable or better location,” Dow said of Community Connections, which the owners said uses about 10 percent of the building space.

According to attorney Thomas Killoran of Fall River, the property was zoned Industrial less than 20 years ago when it was used as Somerset Plastics, a manufacturing and recycling business.

On the recreational marijuana article, Town Attorney Clement Brown presented to the Planning Board a detailed explanation of how it would be integrated with the one for medical.

He noted the preconditions and licensing regulations the state will require.

He said selectmen wished to specify what was in place for medical and place recreational under the same umbrella.

There are three Industrial areas where recreational, like medical, could be sited: the two closed power plant properties and land owned by National Grid near the Braga Bridge, he said.

There are two smaller parcels Brown said likely were not practical considerations.

“The setbacks are exactly the same,” he said. “All things that are in place for medical will be the same.”

A few things are modified in the six-page bylaw, such as the police chief rather than the zoning board screening owners and employees to ensure they don’t have criminal records. There is no operation from 9 a.m. to 8 a.m. and licenses are not transferable from an owner or for another site.