By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Representatives of The Wellness Connection of Massachusetts, Inc. (WCM) came before the city council Monday night seeking a special permit to open a medical marijuana treatment center at 44 Railroad St.
Attorney Lawrence Simeone Jr., representing WCM said the group was formerly known as Boston Wellness Associates Inc., and received a special permit from the city council on Dec. 17, 2013 but did not open a business because it did not receive a permit from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Only five permits are given out in each county.
The company has reorganized with different officers than in 2013. This time the officers of the nonprofit corporation are John P. Henry, president, and a Plympton selectman; Elizabeth P. Jones, of Middleton; Kathleen Donovan, clerk, of Arlington. Former Worcester County Sheriff Guy Glodis is the security expert WCM is using.
Henry is the former president of Ocean Spray. Donovan is the former superintendent of schools in Arlington and York, ME. Jones who was the CEO of the Everett Co-Operative Bank until she retired earlier this year.
“They bring an incredible amount of experience and disciplines with them in order to better the lives of others,” Simeone said.
He added that the business would employ 60-70 people.
In addition, Simeone said, WCM is working with Dr. Genester Wilson-King, a Florida obstetrician-gynocologist who is also an experienced cannabinoid clinician educator. She has developed a cannabis oil used on children to treat seizures, Simeone said.
“It’s not a cure but it’s a way of living with an illness,” Simeone said, adding “I believe you will not find a problem. This is the most professional group. We will meet with community groups, including Revere Cares.
Revere Cares submitted a petition of 125 names opposing the medical marijuana facility. Viviana Catano-Merino, head of substatance abuse Prevention at Revere Cares. Said having the medical marijuana facility in Revere is sending the message that marijuana is ok and early studies have indicated that marijuana use can lead to opioid abuse.
“The 2015 Community Health Assessment showed that 84 percent believe substance abuse is the most present problem in Revere,” Catano-Merino. “The community already has a substance abuse problem.”
Resident and parent Julie DeMauro said kids are getting drugs from their parents home and that our culture is one that turns to pills when there is a problem.
“It’s a culture of ‘let’s share our drugs’ and it effects our children. I feel bad for cancer patients but the (marijuana) should come from a place like MGH or Beth Israel.”
DeMauro continued that the image of Revere would also be tarnished.
“Perception is the reality,” she said.
Plans call for the medical marijuana treatment center (MMTC) to operate within two commercial structures on Railroad Street. The facility would include a 1,000 sq. ft. counseling space, a 1,500 sq. ft. retail center, an office/business area of roughly 2,000 sq. ft. and an approximate 39,200 sq. ft. growing area.
The land for which the dispensery would be placed on is owned by Gunnar Holdings, LCC, of 30 Railroad St., Revere.
Councillor-elect Patrick Keefe said he opposed this the last time the issue came up. He reminded everyone that 10 doctors will give you 10 different opinions.
“With such an opioid crisis and we don’t know what to do,” Keefe said. “I don’t believe it’s good business.”
School Committee member Stacey Rizzo said she is empathetic to people with pain, but “marijuana is not a medicine.” She added that parents would be the ones going to the dispensary and kids would get it from their medicine cabinet. She relayed an experience she had at Chelsea District Court while on jury duty. She saw three Revere students smoking marijuana behind the courthouse who later came inside for their own court issues, they were stoned.
“Our community has had enough,” Rizzo said.
Pastor Tim Bogertman, of the First Congregatonal Church of Revere, also spoke against the facility. He works with youth and sees many youngsters age 13, 14, 15 already using marijuana frequently.
“This could be a tipping point,” Bogertman said. “Will Revere become known as a City of Marijuana?”
“This is a gateway drug that led to the opioid crisis,” said resident Meagan Catricala. “Let’s look for more positive industries.”
The Site Plan Review Committee has reviewed the site plan. A medical marijuana treatment center may only be allowed by special permit of the City Council within the TED (Technology Enterprise District). A 2013 city ordinance requires that dispenseries be at least 400 feet from residences, parks, playgrounds, schools and churches.
Approval of the special permit would enable qualified patients to receive services in accordance with the Massachusetts Humanitarian Use of Marijuana Law enacted on Jan. 3, 2013. A ballot question calling for the legalization of medical marijuana passed statewide with a 63 percent affirmative vote. In Revere the question garnered 58 percent of the vote.
“The people involved make me believe this is a first class organization,” said Councillor Anthony Zambuto.
The council voted to send the request to the zoning subcommittee.