NEW BEDFORD — Just about two dozen concerned residents attended an informational meeting on medical marijuana hosted by Beacon Compassion Center Thursday evening at the New Bedford Inn & Suites.

During an hour-long presentation, representatives from the organization explained what's to come at their facility, which is to be located at 366 Hathaway Road, the former location of Wicks and Licks.

Much of the presentation focused on the subject of safety and security, which Executive Director Steve Angelo discussed with WBSM News earlier this week.

However, the presentation concluded with cannabis therapeutics specialist Dr. Uma Dhanabalan, who advocated for medicinal marijuana to be treated the same as other prescription medication.

"I always say, cannabis is not for everybody, yet, it should be a first line option, not a last resort," said Dhanabalan.

Dhanabalan drew applause a couple of times when comparing the safety and effectiveness of cannabis versus prescription opioid drugs.

Following the presentation, the floor was open to questions.

A theme of three major questions came from several folks in the crowd.

In response to concerns over increased traffic along Hathaway Road, Angelo assured that the expected 100 patients visiting the dispensary per day wouldn't even be noticed among current traffic patterns.

"Traffic issues are here, they've been here, and, based on our numbers, I can tell you that we're not going to impact that negatively," Angelo said. "It's going to be consumed by that existing traffic."

Beacon Compassion representatives were also asked several times about their intentions on moving into the field of recreational marijuana some time down the road. CEO Catherine "Rina" Cametti responded emphatically that her organization was focused on helping people in need of alternative medicine.

"We have always been medically focused, we will always remain medically focused," said Cametti. "This is a passion of ours. This medicine is not to be taken lightly. This helps so many people and we recognize that and want to make a difference with that."

Finally, several people asked about employment opportunities once the dispensary is operational. Angelo said there will potentially be 10-20 part-time and full-time jobs available, along with ancillary positions such as vendors, suppliers, contractors and builders. He said preference will be given to city residents and veterans and that the positions will be listed online as construction nears.

The dispensary is anticipated to open in the summer of 2018.

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