To the editor of THE EAGLE:

Manna Wellness’ bid for reconsideration officially came to an end Friday. Manna was an all-encompassing vision of community-centered compassionate care and environmental responsibility that was, maybe, too far ahead of its time for the Department of Public Health and for Massachusetts. In fact, my wife and I relocated to the Berkshires for the chance to create an iconic destination dispensary worthy of the cultural heritage of the Berkshires, of which the Germaine family has been a part since 1974.

Unfortunately for us, instead of encouraging the endeavors of two young entrepreneurs and a retired veterinarian looking to create the highest standards for environmentally responsible cannabis production in the country, we are now eliminated from contention. We are deeply saddened by the news, especially because of the impact it will have on patient access for Berkshire County, which remains unresolved.

However, I am steadfast in my belief in the program and in my belief that Karen Van Unen and Cheryl Bartlett [state public health officials overseeing the selection of licensees] will return the program to good form in short order. That question, however, does not temper my excitement for the patients in the areas where dispensaries were permitted, as they deserve access to quality medicine and will now see that need fulfilled by those applicants allowed to move forward in the process. They are the real winners of Friday’s announcement.

Of the five groups remaining, those of us in Berkshire County should show support to Mass Medicum. I personally know and respect Dr. James Kurnick and Phil Silverman. I believe that they have one of best medical models in the state and the credentials to back it up. And the best part is that they are a family business like Manna and like The Greeneway Wellness Foundation. They remain the Berkshires’ best chance at establishing a true and bone fide cultivation and retail dispensary, which is far ahead of the intentions of the remaining four applicants invited to the open counties.

Lastly, I want to thank The Greeneway Wellness Foun-
dation for supporting the Berkshire community and assuming the role of stewards in initiating the program here. They really believed in the potential of the county and in the patient’s right to access medicinal marijuana. They still do. And they will appeal the decision by the DPH. We should wish them success: Donations to Youth Alive, Berkshire Children and Fam-
ilies Kids 4 Harmony Program, the Pittsfield Farmer’s Market, and Shakespeare in the Park were all because of his organization’s trust and love for this city and for the county. I am a believer in John Greene’s team, his leadership, and his charisma. The current decision does not change his attitude towards the Berkshires. I am heartbroken twice over.

Going forward, given the current landscape, Berkshire County still has a chance to shape the program in its favor. We should look for a group with an inherently medical ethos, as the medical cannabis program can bring great relief to patients as well as economic promise in establishing a Berkshire-run cultivation and dispensary. The maxim "keep it local" does and should apply to the cultivation of cannabis medicines. That is how Berk-
shire County will stay on the frontier of the industry, how the patients’ voices will best be heard, and how we will best thrive on all the economic vitality the cannabis industry has to offer our charming and progressive corner of the world.

NIAL C. DEMENA

Pittsfield

The writer was director of operations for Manna Wellness and director of community development for the Greeneway Wellness Foundation.