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Getting into the marijuana business

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A dozen companies have approached Saugus town officials about potential permits to open retail pot shops

  Saugus is eager to lay the groundwork for becoming a host community for marijuana retail shops, a move that officials believe could tap into a lucrative revenue stream for the town.

  Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano said this week that at least a dozen potential companies have already contacted him or other town officials with an interest in locating here. “I will be scheduling a meeting with the town manager [Scott C. Crabtree] and town counsel [John Vasapolli] as to how we will proceed,” Cogliano said in an interview this week.

  “This is an S-2 permit granted by the Board of Selectmen, so we will be involved in all discussions with potential owners,” he said.

  A company called Bostica LLC recently held “a virtual Community Outreach Meeting for a proposed Marijuana Establishment” via a teleconferencing hookup last week. (See related story.) It was supposed to be a chance for company officials to introduce themselves to the Saugus community and answer questions from residents. But the session last week (June 30) only drew interest from the Board of Selectmen. And most of them were reluctant to ask questions because they didn’t think the public was fully informed about the meeting.

  Cogliano, who moderated the session, stressed that it was not an official meeting sanctioned by the town and would not figure into any decision as to whether Bostica LLC obtains an S-2 permit from the town. Selectmen really can’t do anything, he said, pending the approval by the state Attorney General’s Office of a warrant article passed by this year’s Annual Town Meeting to allow for marijuana establishments in town. Once the town receives clearance from the state that the warrant article is constitutional, then selectmen can proceed with a yet-to-be-determined process for selecting companies that can sell marijuana products in town.

  Cogliano described it as “kind of like a bidding thing,” where companies would submit their applications, and selectmen would weigh the pros and cons of each application, picking the company with a plan that best fits Saugus. Selectmen would schedule public hearings on each of the proposals submitted to the town and then make a decision on which companies would benefit the Town of Saugus more, according to Cogliano, who said he was impressed with Bostica’s presentation last week.

  “Had you not been at Town Meeting, I don’t think we’d be here tonight,” Cogliano told Jonathan Capano, an attorney and Saugus resident who has been working with the cannabis industry since 2017.

  “Your presentation is going to set the bar high for anyone else who applies,” Cogliano said.

  “We’ve got a long way to go,” Cogliano said, stressing that Saugus is really in the beginning stages of the process to become a host community for marijuana retail business.

  Capano, who is chief compliance officer for Bostica, attended the May 23 Town Meeting session at the request of Cogliano to address Town Meeting members about the lucrative benefits reaped by communities that have accepted the sale of recreational marijuana. Town Meeting voted 33-13 in favor of the article initiated by Cogliano to allow for marijuana establishments in town.

  The following conditions apply for marijuana establishments within the Business Highway Sustainable Development Zoning District (BHSD). The amended version of the approved regulations states that marijuana establishments:

  • May not be located within 1,000 feet of a preexisting public or private school providing education in kindergarten or any grades 1 through 12. The buffer zone distance shall be measured along the shortest publicly accessible pedestrian travel path from the Marijuana Establishment entrance to the school entrance.
  • May not be located within 1,000 feet of a park or playground. The buffer zone distance shall be measured along the shortest publicly accessible pedestrian travel path from the Marijuana Establishment entrance to the park or playground.
  • May not be located within 1,000 feet of each other.

  • May not be located in buildings that contain any residential units, including transitional housing, such as hotels, motels and dormitories.

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