Ipswich Pharmaceuticals seeks to grow, process and sell medicinal pot in the Berkshires

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It's been nearly five years since state residents voted to legalize medical marijuana, but efforts to start businesses related to the burgeoning industry have only just recently begun to pick up steam.

A number of companies have received state certification to open dispensaries in the Berkshires, and some are in the process of launching cultivation facilities as well.

But one, Ipswich Pharmaceuticals, is poised to set up shop here at every level of the business: cultivation, production and dispensary.

Ipswich, which is involved in the production and sale of marijuana, has been planning a growing facility in Hinsdale and pushing for a dispensary in West Stockbridge.

And now, it says it has found a home for a production facility in the Berkshires. The facility, whose location has not been disclosed, would be the first announced processing facility in the region.

"We are very enthusiastic to have the opportunity to go out [to the Berkshires] and do business," said the company's CEO Joseph McCarthy.

The company has approval to open a growing facility in its native Ipswich but that facility has not opened yet, according to a representative of Vicente Sederberg, the company's law firm.

Massachusetts voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana in 2012 and recreational marijuana in 2016. Companies have sprung up across the state to take advantage of the new industry, which is projected by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue to bring in tax revenue between $93 million and $172 million on sales of $707 million to $1.3 billion by the second year of the legal market.

Thus far, the Berkshires are without an open medical dispensary. The closest place to purchase medical marijuana is in Northampton.

As for recreational marijuana, the commonwealth is working out the details. The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, which was recently formed to regulate the new industry, expects to have rules and guidelines in place by July 2018. That's the earliest open date for dispensaries offering recreational sales.

Ipswich plans to sell both medical and recreational marijuana in West Stockbridge.

And by growing, processing, and selling the product all in the Berkshires, the eastern Massachusetts company would be the first marijuana firm to announce plans to make the Berkshires its home base for each step in the new industry.

Local resistance

It hasn't been smooth sailing for the company in the Berkshires.

An attempt to find a home for a growing facility in Becket faced strong opposition that eventually defeated the proposal in that town. And in West Stockbridge, where the company plans to sell both medical and recreational marijuana, the Select Board has moved to ask the Planning Board to review a proposed moratorium on dispensaries until December 2018.

"They have 65 days to hold one or two public hearings about it," said Town Administrator Mark Webber. "Then it goes to the town."

If the Select Board decides to move forward with a moratorium, the question would go before voters in a special town meeting.

Should voters approve the moratorium, the Planning Board will have time to figure out zoning requirements for the industry, Webber said. The moratorium would only delay the dispensary's opening — not stop it.

Ipswich is ready to work with the town either way.

"Our plans are to proceed in West Stockbridge," said McCarty. "And I believe zoning is always an issue."

McCarthy added that the company is actively looking at property in the town in expectation of a dispensary.

Moving forward with plans

The company is also working out the details of its proposed growing facility in Hinsdale — a town official told The Eagle that the contract is being ironed out.

And though McCarthy wouldn't go on record — yet — about what town the company plans to host its production facility, he assured The Eagle that an agreement was in the works.

"We have found a town," McCarthy said.

With a production facility, the company would have a place to take the raw product from Hinsdale for processing.

Marijuana processing involves cutting, trimming and drying the buds of the plant. When all is said and done, the final product weighs about a fifth of its starting weight.

Other facilities

Ipswich will join a number of companies in the area taking advantage of the new business opportunities afforded by the statewide legalization of marijuana.

In Great Barrington, Theory Wellness plans to open a medical marijuana dispensary at 394 Stockbridge Road in early September.

Heka Health has its eye on a dispensary space at 531 Dalton Ave in Pittsfield.

Two companies will be cultivating in Pittsfield. Temescal Wellness hopes open a growing facility on Callahan Drive off West Housatonic Street, while Khem Organics' Berkshire Roots, plans to open at 501 Dalton Ave.

But only Ipswich, so far, has confirmed plans to have growing, production and dispensing all in the Berkshires.

"We feel that we can be a resource," McCarthy said.

Reach staff reporter Eoin Higgins at 413-464-4872 or @EoinHiggins.


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