Board of Selectmen green lights first town marijuana dispensary

Board of Selectmen green lights first town marijuana dispensary

BLACKSTONE – The Board of Selectmen last week approved its first host community agreement with a proposed recreational marijuana dispensary looking to set up shop on 1 Lloyd St. in the Millerville section of town.

DDM Sales, the company proposing the store, approached town officials last year about opening an adult-use dispensary in a building that currently houses Diamond Overhead Door behind the Bellingham, Mass. Stop & Shop. The host community agreement is a required step in the state licensing process that allows local officials to provide input on the proposal. Having secured a host community agreement, the company can now move forward with its application to the state Cannabis Control Commission, which has the ultimate authority to grant the business a license.

According to Attorney Christopher Ryan, who is representing the applicant, the agreement mandates DDM Sales pay 3 percent of all gross sales to the town as a community impact fee along with an additional 2 percent of gross sales to be dedicated to infrastructure and public safety improvements on the Millerville side of town. The 2 percent, he said, was intended to address the needs of Millerville residents who shared concerns about public safety presence during a community outreach meeting held at the Millerville Men’s Club last month.

During a meeting held Tuesday, March 5, Selectman Robert Dubois questioned whether the town could in fact earmark 2 percent of the funds for projects in Millerville. According to Town Counsel Patrick Costello, there have been questions in other areas of the state as to whether towns can legally request contributions from marijuana business above the 3 percent cap allowable by state law. The Cannabis Control Commission, he said, has so far declined to rule either way on the question, leaving local boards to continue to negotiate their own financial agreements with proposed businesses.

“Their view is that towns negotiate these agreements at their risk,” Costello told board members. “There’s no clarity in that statute as it stands right now as to that cap or limit. As we read in the paper all the time, towns are continuing to negotiate agreements that include not only the 3 percent community impact fee but additional payments as well.”

Selectwoman Margo Bik questioned the wisdom of signing an agreement that could potentially be overturned by state law in the future. The proposal also heard strong opposition from former town administrator Daniel Doyle, who spoke out during the meeting as a member of the public and chairman of the board of the Blackstone Valley Boys and Girls Club. Doyle warned of the effects of marijuana on local youth and requested the board refrain from voting on any host community agreements before hearing from local police and fire personnel.

“I would ask this board not to entertain any host agreement until there’s more discussion about the societal impacts that this will have in our community,” he said.

The board voted 3-2 to approve the agreement, with Chairman Daniel Keefe and members Robert Dubois and Gerald Rivet voting in favor and members Margo Bik and Michael Catalano Jr. voting against. According to Ryan, the business has a projected annual gross income of $4 million to $6 million per year, resulting in a projected town contribution of $200,000 to $300,000 per year.

Board members also heard from Gurpreet Kalra, the applicant for the second host community agreement currently under consideration in the town. Kalra, owner of the Family Grocer, had originally planned to put a recreational marijuana dispensary at the location of his store at 202 Main St., but decided to move the proposed dispensary to a building he plans to purchase across the street in response to concerns from residents. During a community outreach meeting in November, residents shared concerns about the location’s proximity to the Blackstone River Greenway. The new location, said Kalra, would no longer abut a playground and entrance to the bike path, though Doyle pointed out it would still remain in close proximity to the Blackstone Valley Boys and Girls Club.

As the change is considered substantial in nature, Kalra plans to resubmit his application using the new location at 199 Main St. A community outreach meeting on the new proposed location will be held at the Blackstone Public Library on Tuesday, March 19, at 7 p.m.