Greeneway Wellness marijuana dispensary clears Pittsfield Community Development Board
PITTSFIELD -- The CEO of Greeneway Wellness Foundation says he is enthusiastic about Pittsfield and Berkshire County for a medical marijuana dispensary.
John Greene, who founded the Kingston-based nonprofit, said this week that his long association with medicinal herbs and organic foods has him "excited to be out in the Berkshires."
Greeneway Wellness on Tuesday received a positive recommendation from the city's Community Development Board for a dispensary in a leased building at 25 Downing Parkway. A review by the Zoning Board of Appeals also is required at the municipal level, scheduled for June 25.
In January, the nonprofit was one of the groups selected for the first 20 medical marijuana facility licenses in Massachusetts.
Six nonprofits, including Greeneway, were provisionally approved by the state Department of Public Health provided the organizations locate a facility in an area left unserved after the first round of state license approvals -- including both Berkshire and Franklin counties.
Greeneway was approved for a dispensary in Cambridge and a companion marijuana production facility in Taunton, which is expected to supply the dispensary in Pittsfield as well.
The DPH delayed final decisions on all medical marijuana licenses after details on applications of some licenses awarded Jan. 31 proved inaccurate, but Greene said the DPH is now expected to issue approvals by the end of June.
"It seems like the state is finally moving forward," he said. "The vetting process is longer than some would like, but in other states it was much longer."
He mentioned the initial licensing in Arizona, Rhode Island and New Jersey as examples. "Massachusetts has been light years ahead of other states," he said, "in part because we have learned from their mistakes."
Even with a special permit allowing a facility in Pittsfield, a state license would be required before it can open. Greeneway also will require local permits in Cambridge and Taunton.
Greene said he became interested in the Berkshires for a facility after meeting Nial DeMena and his wife, Julia Germaine, and her father, Dr. Eric Germaine, who sought a license as Manna Wellness Inc. for a production and dispensary facility in Pittsfield.
That proposal did not score high enough on the DPH rating system to win a license in the initial round, although Manna Wellness is appealing its score, which was highest of five first-round proposals in Berkshire County.
Meanwhile, DeMena is working with Greeneway and, acting as its representative, he appeared at the Community Development Board meeting along with Daniel Lovitt of Hill Engineers, Architects, Planners Inc. of Dalton.
Board members asked questions about fencing planned on the site and security features before recommending that the ZBA approve the Greeneway application.
The Downing Parkway building, constructed in 1965, formerly housed Berkshire Beef Co. The structure sits on a 3.5-acre lot, according to the permit application.
"I was impressed by the passion of Nial, Julia and her father," said Greene, referring to their commitment to providing the medicinal benefits of marijuana to treat chronic medical conditions.
They "share the same philosophy," he said.
Greene said a company he owns developed some 150 medicinal herbs, and he saw the potential for medical marijuana. According to Greeneway's website, Greene, a master herbalist, is the owner and operations director of Adaptonic, an herbal company headquartered in Marshfield.
His interest in cannabis became personal in 2012, he said, when his father died of cancer at age 58. Greene said his father decided against using medical marijuana during chemotherapy, based on the advice of doctors, and it may have hastened his death.
Greeneway considered applying for both a dispensary and production facility for the Downing Parkway site, Greene said, adding that "the building would be ideal" for both uses. However, the nonprofit had to stick to its original plan for a production facility in Taunton, he said, or else apply for one in Pittsfield and take a chance on that plan not being approved.
City zoning, he said, would prohibit a production facility unless there is a dispensary as well. Such a facility could employ from 30 to 100 people, Greene said.
In the future, the nonprofit might consider applying for a production facility in Pittsfield, where he said there are a number of industrial buildings that could serve the purpose, as well as the current site.
When state licenses are approved, "we want to be able to open up as soon as possible in Pittsfield," Greene said.
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