PITTSFIELD -- A nonprofit group planning a medical marijuana production and dispensary facility has selected a building site off West Housatonic Street.

Manna Wellness Inc., one of two organizations seeking a state license to create a facility in Pittsfield, has a purchase agreement for land on Callahan Drive, which is just west of the Lebanon Avenue intersection.

"Manna's directors have worked closely with Mick Callahan, whose family owns the property, and municipal leadership to coordinate development and ensure suitability since early [this year]," said Manna Wellness Director of Resources Julia Germaine.

"Extensive review proved the Callahan Drive site ideal," she said. "It is accessible via public transportation and situated in an industrial light zone, adjacent to successful industrial and commercial enterprises."

Purchase of the one-acre parcel with an option for a second acre is contingent upon Manna's receipt of a license next year from state Department of Public Health. Following an ongoing review of 100 applications by a state selection committee, the DPH is expected to announce up to 35 license recipients statewide by Jan. 31.

These would be the first licenses following approval of medical marijuana in a referendum vote in November 2012 and development of regulations by the DPH over several months this year. A special permit from the city under a newly adopted zoning amendment regulating the facilities also is required.

"Our family is pleased to be associated with this development opportunity in our business park," Callahan said in a release. "We are impressed with the green building concept that has been generated by the Germaine family and their consultants ... We will continue to work with them throughout the development process."

Manna Wellness plans to develop a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifiable -- or environmentally friendly -- medical marijuana cultivation and dispensary facility. Medical marijuana has been prescribed for those suffering from ALS, HIV-AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, cancer and a number of conditions.

Nial C. DeMena, the nonprofit's director of operations, said that only one other state license applicant plans to construct a new building for its facility, but it would not be constructed according to LEED recommendations.

Manna officials have said they believe a green cultivation and dispensary facility will be unique and could draw national media attention for the city.

Germaine said the project will be compliant with city zoning regulating the facilities.

An initial review by the DPH eliminated a number of license applicants who did not meet financing thresholds or other requirements set by the state. DeMena said this week he expects only one facility to win approval next year in Berkshire County, based on population and other factors.

He added that if a license is approved in January, Manna hopes to break ground in the spring and complete construction in November. After a required state site visit and inspection, the facility could open in February 2015, he said.

DeMena said he expects to formally apply for a special permit from the city in late December, as that process will require meetings before the Community Development Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.

Another nonprofit, Total Health and Wellness Inc. has already applied for a special permit, which is under review by the Community Development Board.

Total Health and Wellness is proposing a facility at the existing County-Wide Rental building at 531 Dalton Ave.

Total Health and Wellness had initially applied to the state to open a facility in another county, but changed plans -- which was allowed by the DPH -- after advancing into Phase 2 of the licensing process. The nonprofit is listed on the DPH website as considering facility sites in both Pittsfield and North Adams.

The DPH also lists two other nonprofits considering Berkshire locations. Greenhouse Dispensary Inc. is considering one in Lee and Prospect Lake Inc. in Great Barrington.

Manna Wellness was founded and is headed by Dr. Eric Germaine, whose family has owned property in the Berkshires since 1974.

To reach Jim Therrien:
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