City Council Continues Discussions Over Dispensaries
For the third time in four meetings, the New Bedford City Council discussed the potential of a medical marijuana dispensary within the city Thursday night.
Two items on the agenda related to Beacon Compassion Center, Inc., the company proposing a dispensary in the city's north end, were mostly housekeeping measures. One was to re-word a letter of support to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the governing body for dispensary licensing. The other was to request a start to negotiations over a Host Community Agreement between the city and Beacon Compassion.
The letter of support was passed by a 8-1 vote with Ward 6 Councilor Joe Lopes voting no.
Councilor-at-Large Naomi Carney and Ward 1 Councilor James Oliveira were absent.
Lopes, who supports the use of medical marijuana, explained that his opposition stemmed from sending the letter of support prior to entering into a Host Community Agreement with Beacon Compassion.
"We're expecting a Host Community Agreement that makes sure that the citizens of New Bedford and the taxpayers are recouping their investments that are being made," Lopes said.
The agreement would create a binding contract between the city and the dispensary operators.
Among the safeguards the agreement would provide, one would protect the city in the event the November ballot question legalizing recreational marijuana were to pass.
"This would be a dispensary that would only be selling medical-grade marijuana for people that had a card to buy medical-grade marijuana, not a facility that would be selling recreational marijuana," Lopes said. "But that's something that can be negotiated in the Host Community Agreement."
Prior to Thursday's meeting, a letter was published in The New Bedford Standard-Times by Michael Panagakos of Panagakos Development asking the city council to reconsider their support of the dispensary.
Panagakos Development owns the property at 914 Mount Pleasant St. that Beacon Compassion has been eyeing as its dispensary.
"The truth is, there have been discussions but there is no agreement, and most likely will not be one," Panagakos penned in his letter-to-the-editor.
"We are stringent on allowed uses, and although we did consider allowing a medical use dispensary, we restricted any and all sales of recreational marijuana, which, in my opinion, is the last thing New Bedford needs. Even though the proponents claim they have 'no plans to sell recreational marijuana,' our restriction has brought an end to discussions, which should clearly spell out to the City Council what the proponents' true intent is."
Beacon Compassion CEO Catherine Cametti told WBSM News discussions are still ongoing and that their only intent is to sell "strictly medicinal" marijuana.
"We've agreed to pretty much everything that the council has wanted and we plan to accommodate them and make this a good thing for the City of New Bedford as well as the council," said Cametti. "We want to make sure everybody's happy."
The Host Community Agreement will be discussed further at a future meeting of the Committee on Finance.
Any agreement must ultimately be agreed upon by Mayor Jon Mitchell, who has consistently opposed the idea of a dispensary within the city.