NORTHAMPTON — Two men from eastern Massachusetts and Colorado said Tuesday they’re on track to open a medical marijuana dispensary at 118 Conz St. in Northampton by Sept. 1.
Kevin Fisher and Arnon Vered are principles of New England Treatment Access (NETA), one of 20 non-profits granted a medical marijuana license by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) in January. NETA has been approved to open dispensaries in Brookline and Northampton, and to establish a grow room in the town of Franklin.
Fisher, 37, is from Steamboat Springs, Colo., where he operates a medical marijuana outfit called Rocky Mountain Remedies. That organization consists of 50 employees at one retail location, six cultivation sites, and an “infused product” manufacturer, according to NETA’s DPH application [pdf].
Fisher serves as executive director and CEO of NETA, and says he now plans to spend most of his time in Massachusetts getting the new operation started.
Pot Purveyor Promises 70 Products & Good Neighbor Policy by mserreze
Vered, 39, is from Swampscott, with a background in the banking industry. During the past year, Vered has shifted his focus to the administration of medical marijuana organizations, visiting Israel to investigate best industry practices, according to the DPH application. Vered serves as NETA’s chief financial officer.
Tuesday evening, Fisher and Vered opened their space, still under construction, to the public. The occasion was a forum on the future of Pleasant Street led by the city’s planning department. The forum entitled “Pleasant Futures” drew more than 100 participants who came to share their ideas about the busy corridor leading from I-91’s Exit 18 to Main Street downtown.
As forum participants broke into work groups, Fisher took a moment to explain what NETA will offer and how the dispensary plans to fit into the neighborhood.
Fisher said the Registered Marijuana Dispensary, or RMD, will offer up to 70 products within six months of its launch. Aside from traditional marijuana, he said the dispensary will peddle “tinctures, lotions, balms, vaporizer solutions, sodas, edibles, concentrates,” as well as “CBD-based therapies that can’t even intoxicate the user.”
Legislators in at least a dozen states have passed or are considering bills to legalize non-psychoactive Cannabidiol (CBD) oil made from marijuana plants, facing pressure from parents of children who suffer from epilepsy and other disorders.
Fisher said the dispensary plans on being a good neighbor by operating a clean and attractive business and attending to security.
“The nature of this business is you must have a recommendation from your physician and you must have your state certification. People off the street can’t just walk in,” he said.
Fisher said the building will deploy a “man trap” where clients are buzzed into an area where their credentials are checked before they are let into the locked dispensary area.
He promised the enterprise will “keep the landscaping nice and pay our taxes,” will not be noisy and will keep reasonable hours.
“There’s not going to be active diversion in the parking lot,” Fisher remarked.
The single-story brick office building is the former site of Pioneer Valley Family Medicine, which moved to King Street last year.
Ward 3 Neighborhood Association President Bob Reckman, on hand for the “Pleasant Futures” planning event, had nothing but praise for the nascent dispensary operation.
“I think it’s a great thing for Northampton, for Ward 3, and for the citizens of Massachusetts,” said Reckman.
NETA is receiving a $9 million loan from Howard Kessler of Boston. Of that, $3.8 million will go to capital costs at NETA’s three locations, with $500,000 allocated at the Northampton site. The remaining $5.2 million will go to operating costs until NETA breaks even.
In its first year of operation, NETA hopes to net more than $700,000, assuming 1.6 ounces per patient per month and a price of $4,800 per pound. Projected revenue is $9.8 million for 2015, reaching $19 million by 2017, NETA states in its DPH filings. The dispensary hopes to reach a peak patient level of 3,200 in 2016.
Northampton passed a resolution in November 2013 expressing support for hosting a medical marijuana dispensary. In that month, the city also adopted zoning that allows dispensaries where new physician’s offices are located, with requirements keeping them 200 feet from schools.
Leslie Laurie, President and CEO of Tapestry Health in Northampton, will serve as NETA’s Director of Patient Services. Former Democratic Congressman Barney Frank is on the payroll, serving as NETA’s Director of Government and Community Relations. Veteran Colorado purveyor Russel Wise will serve as Director of Production.
NETA’s director of Science and Research is listed Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli scientist credited as the first researcher to isolate and synthesize tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active principle in cannabis.
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