Discussions about traffic issues surrounding Northeast Alternatives, Fall River’s only licensed dispensary selling both recreational and medicinal marijuana, quickly turned to whether or not the business actually has the proper permits to be cultivating marijuana at their location.
Fall River Inspection Services Director Glenn Hathaway was sent a request from the Fall River City Council on November 13th to determine whether or not Northeast Alternatives was properly zoned and holding the necessary permits to cultivate marijuana at it’s 999 William S Canning Boulevard location. Mr. Hathaway indicated that should his findings show that the business is not properly zoned nor permitted, a cease and desist may be issued. “I have a little bit more work to do, but I plan on having a response to the city councils request no later than Monday morning.” When asked if his letter would include a cease and desist order, Hathaway stated he wanted to inform the council first before speaking to the public on the matter.
At the November 12th city council meeting, city councilors Stephen Long and Leo Pelletier stated that the city should issue a cease and desist order on the business if they were not properly zoned as a growing operation. Today, however, Councilor Long has stated he does not believe a cease and desist is in anyone’s best interest. “The city council can not issue a cease and desist on a business, we could only advise that one be issued through the appropriate department. At this point, I would not recommend that we take that action.” Long stated that no one would benefit from the business closing, even temporarily, and it would be a “significant loss of revenue to the city” if Northeast closed.
Someone who could benefit from the closure, however, would be Solar Therapeutics. Located just over the bridge in the neighboring town of Somerset, the only licensed dispensary in that town is ready to take on the overflow of customers who may not have anywhere to go. CEO Edward Dow is hoping that if there is a closure, customers will head their way. “We are looking to grow our brand. I don’t wish for any business to close, even for a short time, but we are ready.” Dow spoke of the location of Solar Therapeutics in a non-residential area and it’s abundance of over 100 parking spaces as an attractive option to customers. Dow stated that his company has the proper zoning and permits in place and that the town of Somerset has been easy to work with. “Our experience with the town has been super positive. We are very happy.”
During the city council meeting, Long stated that he did not like what he was seeing from Northeast Alternatives and said “it stinks”, he may have changed his tune. When asked today if he thought the company had deliberately circumvented the permit process, Long stated that this is the first business of it’s kind in Fall River and that there may be a “learning curve” for all parties involved. Long stated that he believes the conversation surrounding the process and permits around cultivation will continue well into the new year, but noted that he did not seek re-election and would most likely not be voting on actions before he leaves office.
City Planner Bill Roth hopes to provide some clarity on the zoning issue. Roth was issued a request by the city council on October 8th to research all reasonable regulations and bylaws for the cultivation and sale of both medicinal and recreational marijuana. Roth indicates that there is some basic, general zoning regulations that have been adopted by communities throughout Massachusetts, but that more specific bylaws can be put in place if necessary.
Owner of Northeast Alternatives Chris Haskins was caught off guard by the cease and desist suggestion. Haskins stated that the Community Host Agreement his company has with the city of Fall River includes cultivation of product. Furthermore, Haskins stated that the city does not have any zoning laws in place for cultivation and therefore, nothing to apply for. Haskins watched the city council meeting where the issues were discussed and was focused on the traffic concerns of citizens when the zoning and suggestion of a cease and desist “came out of nowhere”. Haskins continues to work with the city and residents to help with the traffic issues that are effecting neighbors in the area. Haskins was issued a letter from the city clerks office on behalf of the city council requesting a meeting with him and members of city government to further discuss these issues. Haskins says he is looking forward to attending and discussing matters further. “Northeast Alternatives has provided over 1 million dollars of tax revenue to the city of Fall River this year and we want to continue to do that.”