The City of Somerville sent out letters of non-opposition to four medical marijuana companies interested in opening locations in Somerville, according to an Oct. 6 press release from Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone. These letters clear the way for the companies to begin the permit process to open locations in Somerville.
The non-opposition letters were sent after Curtatone received a letter from Somerville’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee (MMAC) on Sept. 21 which recommended four companies to be approved to move forward in the permit process.
MMAC specifically recommended that Garden Remedies Inc. receive a letter of non-opposition for a planned location at 245 Elm St. in Davis Square, which is currently occupied by a Family Dollar store, according to Garden Remedies Communications Coordinator Tom Haley.
In the letter, MMAC praised Garden Remedies for its medical-based approach to marijuana.
“[Garden Remedies has] impressive partnerships and a dedication to marijuana as an effective medicine,” MMAC wrote. “The team is led by a doctor, managed by a pharmacist, has a strong medical background and a model based on medical uses/treatment purposes.”
The MMAC letter noted that the 245 Elm St. location was hotly contested among applicants, with four separate dispensaries, including Garden Remedies, issuing proposals for the space.
Garden Remedies was founded by Karen Munkacy, a medical doctor and breast cancer survivor from Newton, according to Haley. Haley said that Munkacy underwent a lengthy and painful cancer treatment without the help of medical marijuana.
“She was not going to let another individual feel that pain,” Haley said.
Haley said that Garden Remedies opened the company’s first dispensary in Newton in November. If approved, the 245 Elm St. location will become its second.
According to Haley, although the possibility that Garden Remedies will seek to expand into the recreational marijuana business has not been “completely ruled out,” the company’s immediate goal is to open more medical dispensaries.
The recent passing of Question 4, a ballot initiative that legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana across Massachusetts, will require the state to come up with a new set of regulations. Question 4 won the approval of approximately 75 percent of Somerville voters.
Part of the challenge in opening recreational dispensaries will be navigating the regulations eventually issued by the State of Massachusetts, according to Haley. As these regulations have yet to be developed or announced, Haley said that the company is more concerned with expansion of its medical marijuana dispensaries at this time.
Haley says that Garden Remedies has fostered close working relationships with state and local health officials and is interested in working to provide access to marijuana as well as trying to strip it of its taboo as a drug, as it remains banned on the federal level.
“We want to not only provide safe access to medical marijuana to those qualifying patients but to educate the community at large that this is a real medicine,” Haley said.
Curtatone’s press release highlighted education and community outreach as part of the new medical marijuana dispensaries.
“Dispensaries in Massachusetts have typically provided benefits to the local community to support a number of efforts including substance abuse treatment and public safety,” the press release stated. “It is expected that the City will enter into a public benefits agreement with each selected applicant prior to zoning approval.”
Tufts students supported the idea of a local medical marijuana dispensary.
Jake Cosgrove, a junior studying biology and biotechnology, said he saw promise in the growth of the new field.
“In a city that’s big on biotech, it’s great to see a business come here that will be able to help patients suffering from debilitating pain and expand opportunities in the biotech sector in Boston,” he said
Woodrow Nimoityn, a sophomore, said he had seen firsthand the positive effects that medical marijuana could have.
“I had a family member who was sick with cancer,” Nimoityn said. “Although he had a terminal illness, the marijuana that he had access to provided him a sense of relief from his pain. It definitely made it easier at times.”