EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

July 5, 2014

Salem marijuana dispensary could see extra traffic

SALEM, Mass. — When it comes to medical marijuana, Boston’s loss could be this city’s gain.

The Department of Health recently announced that only 11 of the 20 medical marijuana outfits it had originally approved to open dispensaries across the state would actually be allowed to do so, after a verification process found problems with multiple applications.

It was good news for Newburyport-based Alternative Therapies, the dispensary that’s still on track to open at 50 Grove St. in Salem early next year. But local officials say it also means the dispensary could see heavier traffic than it had anticipated, at least temporarily.

Half of the state’s counties aren’t yet slated to host any dispensaries, and one in particular could boost visits to Salem: Suffolk. Two groups had applied for licenses in Boston, but both were eliminated — leaving the city without any marijuana dispensary.

Alternative Therapies grow facility will be located on South Hunt Road in Amesbury.

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said Alternative Therapies could see more traffic than anticipated, but she expects any pressure would be eased when the DPH authorizes more dispensaries, including in Boston, something it expects to do in October. After that, each will go through a build-up process that could last up to six months, meaning they’d open at least several months after Alternative Therapies expects to.

“I guess I would say that it’s likely to be a short-term situation,” said Driscoll. “The initial 11 won’t be the 11 for long.”

The DPH has stressed that 97 percent of the state is within a 30-mile reach of the nearest dispensary, indicating what it perceives to be a reasonable travel distance.

Chris Edwards, director of Alternative Therapies, acknowledged that Salem could see “some amount of overflow traffic” since Boston won’t have a dispensary yet, but downplayed the possibility, saying those patients are more likely to go to dispensaries slated for Brookline, Newton and Quincy.

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