EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 14, 2013

5 apply to open local pot dispensaries

Five applicants for medical marijuana facilities in the area got the green light to move to the next stage recently as cities and towns continue to grapple with where to allow them to operate.

Two of the applicants are eyeing Haverhill, which has a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries as it considers zoning rules, while one looked at Lawrence, which also has a moratorium. A fourth sent a letter of intent to Methuen city officials and a fifth listed both Haverhill and Methuen on its state application.

Phase one of the application process, which was recently completed, required proof of non-profit incorporation and financial documentation showing the group has at least $500,000 available for the first facility and $400,000 for each subsequent facility. Phase two requires, among other things, a decision about which community a facility will be located in and specific details about the property in mind.

One of the five applicants, Lawrence landlord Joseph Shelzi, said he decided he may back away from his proposal to open a dispensary in Haverhill because of resistance from city officials. Haverhill earlier this month extended its moratorium on the establishment of medical marijuana facilities until mid-November.

Shelzi, who created a nonprofit called Mass Compassion, said officials have rebuffed his requests to negotiate in the meantime. “Every time I try to approach them, they push me away and remind me about he moratorium,” he said. “Other communities seem to understand that it can be a parallel process and one doesn’t preclude the other.”

He is talking with another local community, but declined to name which one.

Shelzi has helped others with dispensaries in Colorado and Maine, and said his employees would be trained at dispensaries in Maine, which legalized medical marijuana in a 2009 referendum, before working in Massachusetts.

Another applicant, a physician eyeing a dispensary in Lawrence, said he will not continue to phase two because of the large number of applicants the state invited and because of the uncertainty that comes with prescribing a drug that is legal at the state level but illegal under federal law.

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