The Martha’s Vineyard Commission has declined to review a proposed West Tisbury marijuana dispensary, yielding control to the local zoning board of appeals.
Taking up the question for the first time of whether a dispensary will require review as a development of regional impact, a majority a commissioners said at a meeting Thursday night that they saw no regional impact.
“There is no impact on water, there’s no impact on traffic, we are not building a building that is out of character, what are we doing that is potentially regional?” said commissioner Brian Smith.
Susan Sanford, the owner of Vineyard Complementary Medicine, wants to put a registered dispensary in the lower level of her State Road business that includes acupuncture, chiropractic and massage services.
Ms. Sanford applied for a state license to sell medical marijuana there but was not granted one in the first round of licenses issued in February. Three other Island applicants also did not receive licenses.
While she waits for further word from the Department of Public Health, Ms. Sanford is working to secure the necessary local approvals.
“I am preparing myself as an applicant,” she told the commission.
Her partner is a current dispensary owner in Rhode Island. Her business plan estimates a volume of 17 patients per day and about 330 year-round patients per year. The business would carry marijuana infused products as well as vaporizers, but no other paraphernalia. Ms. Sanford said cultivation would be part of her business plan, but she is not proposing to cultivate the drug on-site. She said she was not at liberty to disclose the locations she had in mind for cultivation.
The West Tisbury zoning board of appeals referred the project to the commission last month to test the question of whether regional review is required.
“We felt we had to at least present it to the commission and if feel like if it’s a county issue they could take it on or kick it back to us,” said zoning board chairman Tucker Hubbell. But he also said they felt capable of reviewing the project at the local level.
“I think our board feels we are can handle all the things you are discussing,” Mr. Hubbell said.
Commissioner Erik Hammarlund had a dissenting view and said he thought regional impact is possibly an issue with the dispensary.
“Since the point of this is to serve a medical need for a large population, it is likely, in my opinion, to be the only one in the county,” he said. He said he was concerned about the location of the dispensary, which he said was too removed from major population centers.
But Mr. Smith differed, saying it was accessible to three bus lines and on a major road. “You probably couldn’t find a better location,” he said.
The Coast Guard wrote to the Steamship Authority this week notifying them that the use, possession and sale of marijuana is still illegal under federal law, according to a letter included in the meeting documents.
In the end the commission voted 7-3 that the project does not require DRI review.
“Live long and prosper,” chairman Fred Hancock said as Ms. Sanford left the meeting.