FALL RIVER — Hope Heal Health, the second local business to secure a recreational marijuana retail license from the state, will officially open for adult use sales next week, the company’s CEO told The Herald News Friday.
Officials with the state’s Cannabis Control Commission gave the dispensary approval to commence operations Thursday, several weeks after granting the business its retail license. It now joins Northeast Alternatives as the city’s second recreational marijuana dispensary.
“It’s been a long road and I think everybody is excited about it. We’re just looking forward to it because we’ve put a lot of time and energy into this,” said Hope Heal Health CEO John Rogue.
The dispensary, which opened for medical sales last February, has been operating out of a renovated mill space on West Street that also functions as a cannabis cultivation and processing facility.
Rogue explained Friday that the dispensary had been prepared to expand from medical into recreational sales for several months, but delays with the approval process slowed Hope Heal Health’s opening. He also alluded to the September arrest of former Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia II, who is under federal indictment for allegedly attempting to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from unnamed businesses attempting to open dispensaries.
“What we did was we were planning for adult use. Prior to the whole situation with the mayor, we had hired 42 people to man the dispensary. When that didn’t happen, we had no place to put them because we were selling medical only,” Rogue said.
Since the date of the company’s planned expansion was unclear, Rogue said Hope Heal Health had to lay off all 42 employees.
With an opening set for early next week – though a specific date was not immediately clear – Rogue said the plan now is to gradually rehire everyone.
“We’re bringing back nine people and are hoping to soon bring back 15 more that had also been laid off,” said Rogue.
The first day of recreational sales is expected to serve as a soft opening, with a grand opening ceremony being planned for some time in February as the company prepares a new advertising campaign.
News of a second dispensary opening comes at a time when the city’s only other recreational marijuana retailer has attracted criticism for its impacts on vehicle traffic flow and other negative effects on the residential neighborhood that surrounds it.
An organized group of residents living on Heritage Court and Commonwealth Avenue, which make up a dead-end cul-de-sac that snakes behind the dispensary, have repeatedly attended Traffic Commission and City Council meetings, pleading with city officials to do something about the number of cars parking in and congesting their neighborhood.
At a recent City Council meeting, representatives of Northeast Alternatives sat with city officials to discuss possible solutions, including creating a new egress onto William S. Canning Boulevard that would divert traffic away from residents or adding a traffic light at the end of Commonwealth Avenue.
While possible solutions have varied from meeting to meeting, one repeating idea from neighbors and city officials has been the hope that additional dispensaries opening in Fall River would divert traffic away from Northeast Alternatives.
When asked why marijuana consumers should come to Hope Heal Health instead of a competitor, Rogue highlighted the accessibility of the West Street dispensary, which abuts a dialysis center, a grocer and a flooring business.
“We have 135 parking spaces of our own. We leased out another 100. The ease of access is great,” Rogue said. “We have multiple points of access, we have wheelchair accessibility. We’ve been prepared for that. … When it gets to the point that we need a valet, we’ll bring in valet parking. We could probably handle 85 people within the dispensary and waiting areas at any given time.”