Special permit in hand, Lee pot shop now just awaits state OK

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LEE — Pending state approval, the town's first retail recreational marijuana store could open in time for the holidays.

The Lee Select Board has granted Canna Provisions a special permit to convert a used-car dealership into a cannabis market on Housatonic Street just off Exit 2 of the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The Boston-based firm expects to be selling various marijuana products by Thanksgiving, provided that the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission grants it a license.

The CCC has yet to grant a license to a Berkshire County marijuana business and has only doled out a handful, in part, due to a lack of a state-certified laboratory to test marijuana products sold in the commonwealth.

The Select Board on Tuesday approved Canna's permit after a brief public hearing. The three-member panel already had heard a presentation last month and little has changed, especially after receiving Lee Planning Board approval two weeks ago.

"I feel you have been fully vetted," said Select Board Chairwoman Patricia Carlino. "I wish you good luck and I hope you make it."

Per town zoning regulations along Housatonic Street, Canna still needs to get a Planning Board permit to maintain the seven parking spaces that front the site.

A lingering concern had been traffic impact, as the pot shop will be located next to a Dunkin' Donuts and across from a McDonald's. Canna operations manager Erik Williams said the property will have a one-way in entrance and one-way out exit to minimize impact on traffic flow along Housatonic Street.

Should the business experience more traffic than anticipated, it will hire an off-duty police officer to direct traffic during peak times in front of the store.

Owned by longtime friends Eugene McCain of West Newton and Arthur Becker of New York City, Canna Provisions has offered to buy Southern States Auto Sales, a used-car dealership, from owner Bart Collins for $800,000. The proposed price tag for the 1.8-acre site is more than twice the $318,000 taxable value, according to the Lee Board of Assessors.

The purchase is contingent on the buyer securing the state license. If Canna Provisions and Collins seal the deal, Collins has told The Eagle, he would relocate his dealership, ideally in Lee.

Under the host agreement, Canna and the Select Board signed this summer, Lee would receive a 3 percent tax of gross retail sales and an immediate $15,000 upfront payment applied against the overall municipal tax revenue received in the first year.

Canna Provisions officials have said they expect to hire 24 to 26 employees, preferably Lee residents. The store would observe the town's regulated hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and have security personnel on-site.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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