AMESBURY — The delivery of medical marijuana by a local company is one step closer after the City Council voted unanimously to start the process of granting Alternative Therapies Group the city’s first license to do so.
In late 2014, Alternative Therapies Group won approval from the state Department of Public Health to grow medical marijuana in the city. Executive Director Chris Edwards approached Mayor Ken Gray late last year about making deliveries from his company’s Industrial Way location to qualifying patients who don’t have transportation.
While Gray and interim Police Chief William Scholtz voiced opposition to the concept last month, District 4 City Councilor Bob Lavoie came up with a plan that Gray, Scholtz and the rest of the City Council signed off on Tuesday evening.
A company must already have a growing operation in the city’s medical marijuana overlay district and would be subject to announced and unannounced inspections by the Amesbury Police Department before it could obtain a medical marijuana home-delivery license, Lavoie said.
“Home delivery still seems a little out there for those conservative-minded people like myself,” Lavoie said. “But it is legal. It is authorized. Medical marijuana has certainly convinced a lot of people that it helps their ailments. I hope the council will join me in allowing home delivery.”
Roughly 100 marijuana delivery companies operate illegally within the state, mainly online, according to Edwards.
Pointing to the arrest in February of a Beverly man who Amesbury police said was found with an estimated $100,000 worth of marijuana, cocaine and “Shatter/Honey” THC in his car, Edwards said Lavoie’s proposed licensing arraignment would allow his company to become the best provider to transport the drug in a safe, controlled fashion.
“We would argue the only time that marijuana is ever a gateway drug is when the drug dealer has other drugs with him,” Edwards said. “Patients deserve legal, above-the-board operators as opposed to those who are operating with impunity in the state now.”
Calling the restrictions the Department of Public Health has already placed upon Alternative Therapies Group “pretty extensive,” Scholtz said his department will have to come up with its own policies to deal with the situation but he ultimately voiced his support for Lavoie’s proposal.
“I have almost 35 years in law enforcement and since day one, I have always been taught that marijuana is bad,” Scholtz said. “So, to change that philosophy which Councilor Lavoie has, that is a big change.”
Speaking for Gray’s administration, chief of staff Evan Kenney also thanked Lavoie.
“We are onboard,” Kenney said. “We feel this is a great compromise and a great way to get what (Edwards) needs, while at the same time ensuring our protection and security.”
With the medical marijuana overlay district now cleared for delivery operations, Lavoie said the City Council could see a proposal dealing with Amesbury’s first marijuana home delivery license by its June meeting.
“(ATG) put together a great plan,” Lavoie said. “Now, it is about making sure that we all work together to go down the right path.”
Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.