Derry Therapeutic Marijuana Dispensary Plans Remain Active

Plans for an Alternative Treatment Center in Derry to dispense marijuana for therapeutic use remained active as of last week, as the developer of the project waited to hear from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) regarding his application.

The project is being proposed by Robert Carr for an Alternative Treatment Center in the former Gold’s Gym building at 10 A St. The property is PID 08001-002004. It is currently owned by Derry Wellness Realty and is assessed at $1,072,200.

John Cronin, a Manchester attorney representing Carr and his “Nature’s Remedy of New Hampshire” group, said in a phone interview Friday that his client still plans to open an Alternative Treatment Center and still wants it in Derry.

Cronin said Carr was one of the applicants hoping to make the cut in the first round of licensing, which would allow two treatment centers to open in different parts of the state.

“But the DHHS has yet to make the announcement and give them the right to proceed,” he said.

Cronin said in the meantime, his client planned to go ahead with the Planning Board process “in the normal course of things.”

Planning Assistant Elizabeth Robidoux said Friday that the Planning Department was still waiting for Carr to bring his application to them.

According to the rules set out in HB 573, signed in June 2013, the entity wanting to establish the treatment center is required to hold an information session with the Department of Health and Human Services and the local governing body before being approved by the Planning Board.

“With their RFP (Request For Proposal) they need to show they have local approval,” Robidoux said.

Robidoux cautioned that “local approval” does not mean that the Planning Board has given its approval for the project. “That is a separate process,” she said.

HB 573 created RSA 126-X, allowing “an exemption in state law from criminal penalties for the therapeutic use of cannabis, provided that its use is in compliance with RSA 126-X.” The New Hampshire Legislature placed the responsibility for administering the program within DHHS. The rules are stringent and include:

• Maintaining a registry of, and issuing registry identification cards to, eligible qualifying patients who have been certified by their medical provider to have a qualifying medical condition and associated symptoms;

• Issuing registry identification cards to designated caregivers who are authorized to assist qualifying patients with the therapeutic use of cannabis; and

• Issuing registration certificates to a maximum of four alternative treatment centers in the state for the cultivation, production, and dispensing of cannabis to qualifying patients, or their designated caregivers.

The law has authorized up to four alternative treatment centers, in different parts of the state, and accepted applications for the first two through the end of January. The state is required to license at least two of the dispensaries within 18 months.

Operating rules include:

• The centers will be non-profit and may not be located within 1,000 feet of the property of a drug-free zone or school.

• They must provide patients with educational information on strains and dosage and must collect information patients voluntarily provide on strains’ effectiveness and side effects.

• Staff must be at least 21, wear ATC-issued badges, and cannot have any felony convictions.

• The law includes numerous additional requirements, including periodic inventories, staff training, reporting incidents, prohibiting non-organic pesticides, and requiring recordkeeping.

  ATCs cannot possess more than either 80 mature plants and 80 ounces total, or three mature plants and 6 ounces per patient. The health department – with input from an advisory council – has set additional rules, including on electrical safety, security, sanitary requirements, advertising, hours of operations, personnel, liability insurance, and labeling. Rules on security include standards for lighting, physical security, video security, alarms, measures to prevent loitering, and on-site parking.

Carr appeared before the Highway Safety Committee in its Dec. 18 meeting to discuss possible traffic impact to the site. The committee was generally favorable, with Superintendent of Operations Alan Cote observing that the project would generate less traffic than Gold’s Gym had.

He has also met with the Town’s Technical Review Committee and as of Jan. 9, concerns include that the building must comply with the state Fire Code, which can be achieved through the renovation, plan review and inspection process, and that any renovations must require a building permit.

There will be no off-site signage and Carr said he would be willing to work with the Sportszone, which uses the former Gold’s Gym parking lot for overflow parking on weekends.

Dennis Reed, owner of the Sportszone, was contacted about a possible day care in his facility. But Carr and his Realtor, Ralph Valentine, met with Reed, who clarified that he was planning a program for younger children for balance, coordination and endurance, but that it would not be a daycare.

The building currently houses Ombudsman, the Pinkerton Academy alternative school. The Ombudsman program uses a portion of the building, according to Pinkerton spokesperson Chip Underhill, and about 45 students are enrolled.

Underhill wrote in an e-mail, “Technically, Pinkerton is not the tenant who would be displaced, as Pinkerton does not own or operate the Ombudsman program. It has a Chicago-based ownership, which is also responsible for issues as tenants of the property.”

Underhill also wrote, “If the building in which Ombudsman is located comes under new ownership, and if the new owner’s proposal receives all necessary approvals and is established in the building, the Ombudsman program would move to another to-be-determined location since there is a legally-defined physical distance required between an educational program and such a business.”

Underhill concluded, “Thanks to the longstanding, successful working relationship Pinkerton has with the Ombudsman program, we are in conversation with Ombudsman staff, helping to work through the issues and offering insight and support where requested. The program’s location is formally a decision of Ombudsman.”

The client count for Carr’s facility is estimated at 1,500 over three years. The traffic count is estimated at 224 trips, weekdays (112 arrivals, 112 departures) and 156 trips (78 arrivals, 78 departures) on weekends. The facility may also offer an educational seminar one night a week, from 6 to 8 p.m., with class size limited to 20 people.

Hours are planned for weekdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and weekends, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be seven employees on weekdays and two on weekends.

Other area towns are grappling with the issue. Epping recently dealt with a request from Dennis Acton of Fremont to open a facility on Beede Hill Road in a former industrial building.

The Planning Board drafted a requirement that any building housing the treatment center be located 300 feet from the front property line. Acton objected, pointing out that the building he planned to remodel and use was less than that amount of footage from the property line. That condition was later removed, with the board electing to go with the state standards of 1,000 feet from a drug-free zone or a school.

The Epping zoning amendment, to be voted on in March, does include specific language limiting the centers to the industrial-commercial zone. Acton’s pro- posed facility is in that zone, but he will have to apply for a change-of-use permit.

Laconia was also scheduled to have a public hearing on a zoning change. The city is considering an amendment to its zoning regulations to permit the operation of a therapeutic cannabis dispensary and was planning a public hearing on whether to add “alternative treatment center/cultivation site” to the list of permitted uses in the Industrial Park, Industrial and Airport Industrial zones.

In Littleton, Wellness Connection of Maine, which operates four facilities in New England’s largest state, is looking at using a building on Main Street formerly housing the Mill River Furniture outlet. In Franklin, Paul Morrissette, who owns Regal Auction Services and several other commercial Franklin businesses, said recently he is working with a Massachusetts organization to develop an application.

Even tiny Newton is on the medical marijuana map, with a company called Granite State Organics meeting with selectmen in late January to discuss opening a treatment center on a 46-acre site on Main St.