Medical Marijuana, Mission Massachusetts, Burlington, Dispensary, Marijuana Sales, Board of Selectmen

 September 21 2015

Selectmen Vote to Send Letter of Support for Marijuana Dispensary in Exchange for Community Benefits

By: Rich Hosford


The Burlington Board of Selectmen voted to send a letter of support to the state for a medical marijuana dispensary seeking a license to set up in town and a community benefit agreement to ensure the town benefits from the operation. 


In previous meetings, Town Administrator John Petrin explained that when a company looking to set up a dispensary applies for a location the town is limited in what it can do. The Board of Selectmen can choose to write a letter of support, a letter of non-committal or take no action at all. It cannot, he said, send a letter of disapproval. 


At last week’s meeting, Petrin said that he, along with Selectmen Chair Michael Runyan and Vice Chair Chris Hartling, had finalized a community benefit agreement with Mission Massachusetts, a medical marijuana group out of Worcester that is applying to the state for permission to set up a dispensary in Burlington. The idea being that in exchange for benefits to the town outlined in the agreement the board would approve sending a letter of approval to the state. 


On Monday night the board did make such a vote. It voted 4-1 to send a letter of approval and 5-0 to accept the community benefit agreement. Selectman Daniel Grattan was the one vote against the letter of agreement. 


I the agreement Mission Massachusetts agreed to give $20,000 in donations to Burlington organizations and to give the town 3 percent of gross annual sales with a minimum of $250,000 per year starting in the third year of operation. The dispensary would also pay real estate tax though it might be exempt from personal property tax. It has also agreed to try and hire Burlington residents. 


Grattan, the dissenting vote in the letter of approval vote, said he didn’t think the town should send the sign that it is welcoming a dispensary. 


“I don’t think we need to welcome them with open arms,” he said. “Medical studies show it is a gateway drug and excessive use impacts people, especially younger people. I can’t see signing on for a letter of support.”


One member of the community, Francis Rais, also spoke against the proposed dispensary. He said he has seen the negative effect marijuana has on people and said he doesn’t believe people in town know what is being proposed. He encouraged the board to send out a flier to all residents alerting them to the proposed dispensary. 

Rais also asked if there would be police to monitor the dispensary parking lot to ensure users of medical marijuana are not using it before driving and causing a safety risk. He asked if there is an equivalent to a breathalyzer test for marijuana users. 

However, since it is not for the town to decide if a dispensary can come to town, the other board members voted to approve the letter in exchange for the benefits that come from the agreement with Mission Massachusetts. 

Petrin said he thought the deal was generous when compared to what other communities are working out with similar organizations. If, however, Mission Massachusetts creates a better deal with another community then Burlington could re-open the talks and work towards getting more perks. 


Though the non-tax funds that the town will be given by the dispensary can be used at the Board of Selectmen’s discretion, the members said that they would like to see some of them go towards drug and alcohol abuse education and to support the town’s public safety departments. 

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