Following the green brick road to cannabis in Dartmouth

Sep 6, 2019

With two new marijuana operations proposed in Dartmouth, will the cannabis industry finally come to town? 

Since Massachusetts voters approved medical marijuana in 2012, a total of five companies have pitched cannabis business in Dartmouth. 

Most recently, in the last month, a cannabis cultivation facility has been proposed at the soon-to-be-former Dartmouth Indoor Tennis, and a retailer wishes to open a recreational store at the VF Outlet. 

But will the two new contenders succeed while other plans have floundered? Here’s a rundown of Dartmouth’s history with cannabis. 

Dartmouth’s first shot at the budding business. 

The William Noyes Webster Foundation was the first organization to make a play to secure a host agreement with the town. Officials from the nonprofit presented their plans at the September 20, 2016 Select Board meeting.

Its president, Jane Heatley, detailed the plans for the 508 Faunce Corner Road site. The nonprofit received a warm welcome from the Select Board, which approved the organization's request for a host agreement. In February 2017, the organization announced it would be located at 350 Faunce Corner Road instead, due to construction and permitting issues at its original site. 

The next step for the organization was to secure a Planning Board special permit to ready the site. However, the organization did not continue its bid to open up in Dartmouth. 

Liberty Health Sciences, a Canadian company with operations in several U.S. states, sought to acquire a controlling interest in the organization in 2018. According to investor documents, this acquisition was later terminated. 

A press release from Liberty at the time the acquisition was announced indicated part of the purchase price would be used to fund the completion of a dispensary in Dennis and a cultivation and processing facility in Plymouth. State records of medical dispensary applicants only list these two locations. 

Heatley did not return calls for comment. 

Dueling proposals. 

At the September 12, 2017 Select Board meeting, the board granted "letters of non-opposition" to two nonprofits seeking to build facilities on Faunce Corner Road. 

Coastal Compassion, LLC pitched its plan to build a 6,200 square-foot medical dispensary at 529 Faunce Corner Road, while Elevated Access Center proposed a combination cultivation and dispensary at a two-story, 20,000 square foot facility at 508 Faunce Corner Road. 

Coastal Compassion President Tim Keogh said his dispensary would compliment a proposed cultivation facility in Freetown. Rebecca Adams, Executive Director of Elevated Access Center, detailed her organization's vision of providing a fully-functional wellness center offering programs including yoga, meditation, and nutrition health. 

While both facilities were granted letters of non-opposition, only one would have been able to secure the necessary special permit from the Planning Board because of language which forbids facilities within 4,000 square feet of each other. 

The Planning Board approved Elevated Access Center's special permit on December 19, 2017. 

Coastal Compassion did not file a special permit application with the town. The organization is now known as BASK, and operates a dispensary in Fairhaven. The Freetown cultivation facility was completed in August. 

Chapman Dickerson, CEO of BASK, did not return calls for comment about the status of the Dartmouth proposal.

Elevated Access hits roadblocks. 

With a Planning Board special permit in hand, Elevated Access secured its required host agreement with the town in February 2018. 

With the changing state of the cannabis industry due to state voters approving full legalization, Elevated Access officials had concerns with the viability of its original medical-focused vision. 

They appeared before the Planning Board in September 2018 and revealed they are exploring offering both recreational and medical sales. The town’s recreational zoning bylaw, however, would make that impossible. 

At issue was how the recreational zoning bylaw defined how closely facilities can be built to houses. Unlike the medical marijuana zoning bylaw, recreational facilities cannot operate within 500 feet of a house. Elevated Access’s location met the medical requirements, but would not be eligible for a recreational special permit. 

Robert Proctor, CEO of Elevated Nonprofit Corporation, did not return a call seeking comment on the status of their proposal. The Elevated Access Center website is no longer operational. 

New process, new applicants. 

Seeking more town control of the process, the Town of Dartmouth initiative a formal request for qualifications process for recreational facilities in April 2019. 

Rockland-based Health Circle, Inc. was picked, and has submitted plans to open a recreational marijuana dispensary at the VF Outlet on Faunce Corner Road. The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on September 9, 7 p.m. to decide on the special permit. 

Casco Botanical Department, a Maine-based cannabis growing company, announced plans to open a cultivation facility at Dartmouth Indoor Tennis on State Road. That would require a zoning bylaw change to open up Route 6 to cultivation, and the company has drafted a citizens’ petition to appear at Town Meeting doing just that.