© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Uncertainty Still Surrounds Proposed Springfield Medical Marijuana Clinic

    Advocates who worked to legalize medical marijuana in Massachusetts are frustrated over its limited availability, as the fate of the first proposed dispensary in Springfield remains in limbo.

     By a 3-0 vote, the Health and Human Services Committee of the Springfield City Council sent back to the full council, with no recommendation, a negotiated agreement between the city administration and the developer of a proposed medical marijuana dispensary.

    Councilor Adam Gomez, the committee chairman, said he remains opposed to a provision in the agreement that would allow the developer, Hampden Care Facility, to operate in the city without competition for a period of time.

    "I understand we need this to move forward, but the host community agreement needs to make sense," said Gomez.

    The proposed host community agreement for the city’s first medical marijuana dispensary first went to the city council in late June and was referred to the Health and  Human Services committee, which held two hearings.

    The agreement will be back on the agenda for the council’s August 15th meeting.

    Several councilors, including Council President Mike Fenton, have voiced objections to providing Hampden Care with a “monopoly.”

    Gomez said he does not believe one dispensary can adequately service Springfield. He points to Worcester – a city only slightly larger than Springfield – where four dispensaries are planned.

    " Having just one is not going to benefit the city of Springfield," Gomez said.

    Frank Antonucci, a lawyer for Hampden Care, said the company is willing to reduce the proposed 10-year exclusivity to a five-year period, but that would also reduce the annual payments offered to the city.

    " We have come up with that proposal. We are prepared to put that in writing," said Antonucci.  " It gives the city more flexibility and oversight and gives us some security for the investment we are making that it is economically wise."

    The annual payments to the city include $50,000 earmarked for the police department to cover additional public safety expenses tied into the dispensary operations plus a gradually increasing percentage of the dispensaries’ gross revenues, which are intended to help mitigate any impacts on other city services.

   City solicitor Ed Pikula urged councilors to accept the new deal.

   " The timeframe involved changes the cash flow, changes the present value of money, changes the dollars they can afford to pay. From our standpoint, does it cover the impacts we anticipate? The answer is yes," said Pikula.

   Nichole Snow, executive director of Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, a group that campaigns for safe access to medical marijuana, said she does not believe Springfield city councilors are deliberately trying to prevent a medical marijuana dispensary from opening.

   " It does seem the host agreement negotiation is the obstruction, " she said.

   Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana in 2012, but just seven dispensaries have opened in the state.

   "  One of the things we wanted was a dispensary open in every county in the state. Access is not widespread as it was initially intended," said Snow.

    The first medical marijuana dispensary in the city of Boston opened just this week.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
Related Content