EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 26, 2013

Two seek pot store approval

Two nonprofits filed applications to open medical marijuana dispensaries in the area, proposed in Lawrence and Haverhill, according to the state Department of Public Health.

The proposals are two of a total of seven in Essex County to apply for the final, and more thorough, phase in the application process. DPH plans to finish reviewing the final applicants early next year and will begin issuing conditional dispensary licenses.

According to the law passed by referendum in 2012, each county can have no more than five state-licensed marijuana dispensaries. The DPH review process also takes into consideration the locations of the proposals to prevent clustering of dispensaries.

Locally, Nathaniel L. Averill, president of Healthy Pharms, Inc., and Charles M. Saba, president of BeWell Organic Medicine, Inc., have proposed dispensaries in Haverhill and Lawrence, respectively.

The companies operating medical marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries must be nonprofits under state law.

Valerio Romano, an attorney representing Averill, said Healthy Pharms chose Haverhill for its location. “It seems like a good hub for northern Essex based on transportation and populations,” Romano said. “Mr. Averill of Healthy Pharms is about helping patients and serving patients’ needs. Looking at the different parts of the commonwealth, it looked like there was a need in northern Essex.”

He said Healthy Pharms would wait to see where Haverhill decides to allow dispensaries, something city leaders have been struggling with, to decide whether the dispensary will also grow on that location or somewhere else.

Dispensary companies, with a few exceptions, grow and distribute their own marijuana.

Saba, of BeWell, did not want to comment on his proposal until DPH issues licenses, and until he has been able to talk to the incoming mayor of Lawrence, Daniel Rivera.

“I think this is a very important law,” said Saba. “It can be something that’s very beneficial to a certain percentage of the population who have not been able to get this form of medicine legally.”

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