February 12, 2019

Sterling won't support recreational marijuana grower Acreage

Photo | Zachary Comeau
The Botanist General Manager Chris Tolford and Acreage Holdings Chief Marketing Office Harris Damashek at the company's Worcester dispensary.

Acreage Holdings is hoping to eventually win town approval to grow and produce recreational cannabis products at its Sterling facility, but it may be an uphill battle.

Town officials at a Board of Selectmen meeting last week said they would not support a Town Meeting article seeking a zoning change to allow the company's medical facility to produce recreational products.

Concerns cited from officials include youth health issues, crime and odor.

Sterling voted no in a 2016 state referendum to legalize and regulate marijuana, and a year later, the town passed a zoning bylaw to ban the industry.

However, Acreage Holdings was already in town with a medical marijuana cultivation facility.

The company, operating under The Botanist brand with dispensaries in Worcester, Shrewsbury and Leominster, is seeking a zoning bylaw change to allow the company to tap into the recreational market, but not sell any marijuana in Sterling.

However, the Board of Selectmen instructed the company to seek a citizen petition rather than a town-sponsored article.

Officials from the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals -- along with two of three selectmen -- both said they would vote against the proposal.

After the meeting, Valerio Romano, a lawyer with Colorado law firm Vicente Sederberg, said there will be no changes to the facility other than more hiring and production.

The company wants to continue to work with the town, but Romano called the views expressed at the meeting shortsighted. The town could benefit from another host community agreement in addition to a current agreement for medical sales, but the town could lose out on that revenue.

"I'm not really sure if the town knows exactly how it works," Romano said.


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