With two cannabis companies ready to open their doors in town, and another expressing interest in doing the same on Wednesday night, officials decided to move forward with the adoption of a bylaw regarding the sale of recreational marijuana. The bylaw would firmly establish specific criteria that businesses must meet when applying to open shop in town, and it would limit how many can do so.
Based on a Tyngsborough bylaw, the bylaw applies only to recreational, or “adult-use,” cannabis establishments. It has no effect on medical marijuana dispensaries. After spending the last weed reviewing the Tyngsborough bylaw, members of the Selectboard announced their approval of it on Wednesday night and sent the bylaw to the Planning Board to review.
Although Ryan Mailloux, chairperson of the Selectboard, was not in attendance, he has previously showed immense support for putting an “actual process” in place regarding applications for marijuana retail outlets. If the Planning Board approves the bylaw, it would need to go before voters at a Special Town Meeting, as well as receive approval from the state’s attorney general.
August 16 is the date for the next Special Town Meeting in Orange, but according to Gabriele Voelker, Town Administrator, a vote on the bylaw will not occur until another Special Town Meeting in the fall. “We really have no process for denying applications.” Voelker explained, adding that, without the bylaw, Orange could end up with up to eight recreational pot shops and no way to say no to them legally.
Currently, Voelker says that Orange has no zoning bylaws to deal with recreational cannabis stores. Any bylaw that Orange adopts would not apply to businesses that already have approval from the Selectboard, such as Silver Therapeutics Incorporated, which has both a Host Community Agreement and a letter of non-opposition from the state, as well as licenses to sell both medical and adult-use pot.
The company has already invested in property on South Main Street to open a store, as well as another property on Governor Dukakis Drive for a cultivation center. Silver Therapeutics is nearing the final stages of its business in Orange. It has plans to open its doors this year still and is already planning a layout for its store.
As for Fidelity Wellness Center Incorporated, it also has a Host Community Agreement and a letter of non-opposition to open a greenhouse for growing weed just off R.W. Moore Drive, at the Randall Pond Industrial Park. Unlike Silver Therapeutics, however, Fidelity Wellness Center has no plans to sell cannabis to consumers directly, and as such, it will not be opening a storefront.
A business that has been operating at the Randall Pond Industrial Park in Orange since 2000, PHA Industries, which extracts chemicals from various substances and sells them in different industries, has hopes to do the same with cannabis. On Wednesday night, it brought its plan before the Selectboard to obtain state licensing and received preliminary support from Selectboard vice Chair, Jane Pierce, who stated that established companies such as PHA Industries are the pot businesses that Orange needs.
The new bylaw would require the submission of a detailed plan of operations from all applicants, including a business model, parking plans, a security plan, a management plan, and a plan for transporting its products. It would also need approval from not just the Planning Board, but from the fire and police departments, and according to Voelker, “any department involved with the site permitting process,” as well.
The bylaw would also restrict the number of pot stores operating recreationally in town to 20 percent of the number of off-site liquor licenses. As Voelker explained it, Orange has already issued six such licenses, so if the bylaw were currently in effect; it would limit recreational weed outlets to just two. Pierce said she received word from the Orange Merchant’s Guild, a collective of business owners in town, which she says intends writing a letter in support of the limit.
James Cornwell, Selectboard Clerk, also voiced support for Orange to adopt a bylaw based on the Tyngsborough one. “I think that, while I like simple, I think in this case, the more information we can put in a bylaw, the more questions we can get answered by applicants,” Cornwell said. Voelker says there are five or six companies wanting to open a pot store in Orange, but without a clear bylaw, there would be no legal way of stopping all of them from doing so, as well as others who might want to in the future.