Pittsfield Community Development Board OKs medical marijuana proposal at former Kentucky Fried Chicken

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PITTSFIELD — A former East Street fast food eatery could house the city's third medical marijuana dispensary if the developer gets the go-ahead for its main facility in Franklin County.

The Pittsfield Community Development Board has unanimously endorsed Happy Valley Compassion Center's plan to transform the one-time Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant into a state-sanctioned dispensary.

The Greenfield-based company now must get a special permit from the city Zoning Board of Appeals, with a hearing scheduled for next week.

However, Happy Valley CEO Jim Counihan told reporters after Tuesday night's approval, the Pittsfield dispensary hinges on the town of Bernardston allowing his business to cultivate and process the marijuana, as well as sell it, out of a former restaurant in the community north of Greenfield.

So far, Counihan is pleased with the approval process in Pittsfield.

"The city has been very good to work with," he said.

Counihan noted he's still awaiting a provisional license for his entire project from the state Department of Public Health, which has the final say on how many dispensaries and cultivation centers will operate in the commonwealth.

Two other groups that previously obtained a special permit from Pittsfield — Heka Health Inc. and Khem Organics Inc. — also have received provisional certificates of registration from the DPH.

Heka Health has proposed a facility in an existing building at 531 Dalton Ave., and Khem Organics wants a dispensary in a building at 501 Dalton Ave. Both companies have obtained provisional certificates in two additional communities.

A fourth nonprofit expected to seek a special permit, Manna Wellness, plans to a new building for a dispensary on Callahan Drive.

Should Happy Valley convert the blighted East Street property into a new retail operation, it plans to serve 130 patients per day, who will need a DPH issued card to enter the building. Currently, Northampton has the only medical marijuana dispensary in Western Massachusetts.

With two special permits issued and two pending in Pittsfield, city officials may lift the cap of three dispensaries as part of a city ordinance governing the siting of such facilities.

City planners expect the Community Development Board will wait until after the Nov. 8 election when Massachusetts voters will act on a referendum calling for the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults.

The ballot question comes four years after the state's electorate supported the production and sale of medical marijuana used to treat chronic medical conditions.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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