The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission will start accepting license applications today, and the recently-opened INSA marijuana dispensary at 122 Pleasant St. plans to be among the first in line to sell recreational, adult-use cannabis products.
INSA, once known as Hampden Care Facility, opened with fanfare in February, launching a medical marijuana retail shop and state-of-the-art cultivation facility at the Keystone Mill.
Representatives from the company held a community outreach meeting Friday where they described plans to add recreational cannabis to their medical product line.
CEO Mark Zatyrka and his staff, including operations director Ian Kelly, talked about their plans for safety and security, contributing to the community, and being a “good neighbor.” The group’s lawyer, Springfield attorney Stephen M. Reilly, Jr., sat quietly to one side.
Zatryka said INSA does not plan a new or different retail space, or to expand its approximate 22,000-square-foot growing facility. The recreational inventory will be separated from the medical sales, but the same store entrance will be used by both patient groups.
As for loss or diversion, he said INSA tracks each of its plants and would know quickly if inventory was missing. Employees must wear certain clothing to make pocketing the product difficult.
“We have more video cameras than a supermax prison,” said Zatryka. “We take diversion very seriously.”
Zatyrka and Kelly talked about jobs, plans to donate to local charities, “parking lot sweeps” to prevent loitering; odor and noise control technologies, “go green initiatives,” and local tax payments.
“We will try to be the best neighbor we can,” he said.
Parking could be an issue; new Planning Board permit needed
Remarks from INSA representatives about “ample public parking” for up to 50 cars — and the potential for anywhere from 300 to 1,200 customers — drew blunt commentary from William Bundy, owner of the adjacent Eastworks mill building at 140 Pleasant Street.
“You don’t have that much parking,” Bundy told Zatryka and Kelly. “There are 20 to 30 parking spaces connected to Keystone. If you take 50 parking spots, that would change the mill district forever in a way that’s not neighborly.”
Around 400 parking spaces behind the Pleasant Street mills were completed in 2015 as part of an ambitious revitalization project using state and city money.
From 2102 to 2014, Easthampton procured $7.2 million in MassWorks grants to build buried utilities, new infrastructure, landscaping, lighting, and parking behind the mills, and devoted $400,000 in Community Preservation Act monies to upgrade the adjacent Manhan Rail Trail and Millside Park.
Bundy later said that even though the parking was built with public money, property owners in the mixed-use mill industrial district signed agreements with the city to pay for ongoing maintenance of the lot. He said the agreements describe the parking allocation for each mill building along Pleasant Street, including information about public use.
Records on file with the Hampshire County Register of Deeds show that the city did in fact enter into a set of formal agreements with around five building owners in 2013 as part of a public-private partnership governing the rebuilt area behind the Pleasant Street mills.
Mill owners that year granted easements to the city for parking, while specifying that the spaces would be generally available to their own buildings’ tenants, and to their “guests, invitees, customers, and contractors,” with no overnight public parking. The agreements did not specify any number of parking spaces, but referred instead to various surveyed “easement areas” associated with each building in the district.
City Planner Jeffrey Bagg told Bundy and the cannabis entrepreneurs that any parking conflict could be discussed in detail during public hearings before the Planning Board. He said he would not speak to the parking issue before conducting his own research.
Bagg said INSA must gain a second special permit under the city’s brand-new recreational cannabis zoning ordinance. INSA’s current special permit was issued in 2016 under the city’s 2015 medical marijuana zoning.
INSA must negotiate a “host community agreement” with the city, which will include a 3 percent local option sales tax, he noted. Bagg started work as Easthampton’s principal planner earlier this year, and guided the enactment of the city’s new cannabis ordinance.
Zatyrka and Reilly said INSA would apply for the special permit.
Zatryka said despite what could be a tight timeline, INSA wants to start its recreational cannabis sales on July 1, when the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission will issue its first licenses.
Under state regulations, existing medical marijuana dispensaries are priority applicants for licenses to grow, process, and sell cannabis to adults 21 and over, meaning they may apply on April 1 and enjoy expedited review by the Cannabis Control Commission.
“Economic empowerment applicants” that benefit communities that had high rates of arrests for drug crimes also have priority application status before the state, in an effort to address past racial disparities in the enforcement of marijuana laws.
About a dozen people, including former mayor Michael Tautznik and City Council President Joseph McCoy, attended INSA’s outreach meeting, which was held at the Zing! Table Tennis space at the Keystone Mill.
INSA is also building a retail dispensary in Springfield.