IPSWICH — The planning board has approved the construction of a medical marijuana dispensary on Route 1.
The permit prevents the applicant from converting to a retail pot shop, should they be allowed in town.
Medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed under the town’s bylaw. They can sell the product to people who have a doctor’s certificate.
During the discussion, board member Jim McCambridge noted, “There’s another elephant in the room with respect to marijuana.”
He asked Spencer Kalker, CEO of Old Planters of Cape Ann, if the dispensary would be for medical marijuana only.
“This will not be a location for retail marijuana,” Kalker replied, adding he agreed to make that a condition of the permit.
The Old Planters application was for two 20,000-square-foot buildings. Once running, it is expected to have between 42 and 48 employees.
One building will be for warehouses and offices. The other will house the registered marijuana dispensary (RMD) and a growing area.
The buildings will be built on a 17-acre lot near the intersection with Linebrook Road.
Meanwhile, another company, Ipswich Pharmaceutical Associates (IPA), has an active application to build a dispensary around half a mile away on Route 1.
Old Planters leapfrogged IPA in the planning process to win approval first.
IPA first came before the planning board in September 2016 but it asked for several extensions while it reworked its plans. Old Planters first met with planners in January.
However, it is still possible IPA could be open for business first, since it is moving into an existing building.
One of the final issues to be addressed by Old Planters was traffic on Route 1.
Planners were worried sight lines at the entrance were too short for drivers leaving the facility.
They said the combination of the hill, which crests around 450 feet away, and average speeds above 50 mph would make turns onto Route 1 dangerous.
Sam Gregorio, Old Planters’ traffic engineer, said the company will maintain an illuminated, radar-operated speed sign on Route 1.
“That effectively makes me step on the brakes,” chairperson Heidi Paek said.
“It does help people to slow down or at least check their speedometer,” Gregorio agreed.
“Our challenge was to set aside our personal opinions about marijuana” during the planning process, Paek said.
“The public was very involved in this process, and the board received a lot of correspondence,” she noted.
Doug Smith noted that the dispensary will be open seven days a week and asked if it could be open fewer days at first.
“We’re trying to serve patients suffering from cancer and other debilitating diseases,” Kalker replied.
He argued that CVS and other pharmacies are open weekends. Kalker said Old Planters would likely be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. six days a week, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Asked about odor control, Kalker replied, “We will do whatever it takes to make sure we are not a nuisance in any way.”
Paek said the planning board consulted with town counsel George Hall about one objection raised by residents.
They said the closeness of Willowdale State Forest and its trail system met that criterion.
Relaying Hall’s opinion, however, Paek said use is “transitory and intermittent.”
“It was a good question that came up, and one that gave me pause,” Paek said.