Bennington eyed for medical marijuana facility

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BENNINGTON — There apparently are at least two applicants for a medical marijuana dispensary license that want to base a facility in the Bennington area.

The Vermont Medical Marijuana Registry received seven applications for a newly available dispensary and cultivation license prior to a July 28 submission deadline. However, the registry, part of the state Department of Public Safety, doesn't release application details at this stage of the selection process.

But Lindsey Wells, who oversees the registry program, said most of the interest in applying for the newly created license — a fifth for the state program — involved proposals for Bennington County.

Currently, there are four permitted medical marijuana cultivation/dispensary operations: in Montpelier, Brattleboro, Brandon and Burlington. Legislation signed in June authorized a fifth such license, and Bennington is considered one of the larger underserved population areas of Vermont.

In addition, Act 65, which was sponsored by Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, and others, allows the four existing facility operators to apply to open a satellite retail facility. Those applications have been received by the state for satellite facilities in Middlebury, South Burlington, Williston and Hartford.

Barriere said Monday that he has two locations in mind in the county, for a growing facility and for a separate retail outlet, which he would like to locate in Bennington. He declined to specify those sites at this time.

He added that this area of the state is significantly underserved because of the lack of a local dispensary. For the past year, he said, he has traveled to Montpelier multiple times to advocate both for the expansion of the dispensary licensing program and for a facility in the Bennington area.

Bernie Barriere, of Vermont Green Grow, has said he would apply for a Bennington site, and town officials confirmed his expressed interest. Barriere could not be reached Monday for further comment on his plans.

"I've been contacted by two [groups]," Town Manager Stuart Hurd said in an email. "Barriere's group and a doctor's group from the Burlington area. I don't remember the name. It is my understanding the use would be restricted by the zoning bylaw as to location, size, etc. The Development Review Board would have final say."

Sears said he had heard of three proposals for the area, but that one potential applicant dropped out of the process.

Wells said the seven applications for the new full license will be reviewed by a panel including registry staff members, a state-registered patient and a caregiver. The committee will make a recommendation by September to Department of Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Anderson, who will make the final decision.

Applications will be scored individually by panelists on a points system, ranging up to 100 points. There are three major categories, including safe and secure communities; overall health needs of registered patients, and business plan and facility information.

The successful applicant will afterward receive conditional license approval, Wells said, and then must secure ownership or use of the proposed site and seek local permits. Once the facility is ready to begin operations, a final state inspection is required before the license is issued.

The holder of the fifth state license also would be allowed to establish a satellite retail operation at a different location.

Information on the program and the application process is available at http://vcic.vermont.gov/marijuana-registry.

Other changes in the bill approved this year include that a dispensary will be allowed to operate as a for-profit business, operate a separate cultivation facility and cultivate outdoors while maintaining security of the site.

The bill followed expansion of the medical marijuana program in the state to include more than 4,000 patients. If that figure reaches 7,000 patients, a sixth facility will be authorized under the legislation.

Other local state lawmakers contacted said they have not heard of applications in their districts.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. @BB_therrien on Twitter.

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