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FALL RIVER — After roughly four years of planning, a Hartwell Street marijuana dispensary that nearly completed construction in 2018 is poised to begin recreational sales this year.

Since becoming the first Fall River marijuana business to receive a letter of non-opposition from the city – which any dispensary needs to have before applying for a license with the state – Health For Life has gone through a series of fits and starts. However, during a state-mandated public outreach meeting Tuesday, representatives of the company’s owner said an opening date is on the horizon.

“It’s in the plan to be doing sales within the year,” said Caleb Johnson, the dispensary’s director of operations. “I’m sure we’d love to say we’ll have plants in the ground by April.”

Spearheaded by a local company called CannaTech, the facility has since been purchased by New York-based iAnthus Capital Holdings. In addition to operating the Hartwell Street dispensary, iAnthus is also working to open a facility that would cultivate and process cannabis on Innovation Way.

When asked why it had taken roughly four years for the dispensary to get this far in the process to begin marijuana sales, Phil Silverman, an attorney representing the company, cited a mixture of the state’s slow approval process, caution in seeing how the local cannabis market would fare and ownership changes.

By the end of 2018, CannaTech’s two local founders announced they had sold their stake in the company to Canada-based MPX Bioceuticals, which sold the company again in 2019. Last November, iAnthus Capital Holdings acquired the facility.

“It’s been a slow, long haul,” said Silverman. “I can’t speak to the prior operator other than to say when these gentlemen came in, they went up and at it and they are really ready.”

Though much of the project’s construction was nearing completion in 2018, Andy Plant, the dispensary’s director of security, said work still had to be done to ready both buildings for opening.

“We evaluated all their existing security systems. We evaluated all their technology, which had to be consistent with what we’re using elsewhere,” he said.

According to Silverman, his clients are working with city officials to negotiate a host community agreement, the document that outlines the various financial payments and impact fees the company will make to the city once its facilities are operational.

In the four years since CannaTech and Health For Life officially set their sights on Fall River, the local cannabis industry has steadily advanced. Two dispensaries that received letters of non-opposition after CannaTech – Northeast Alternatives and Hope Heal Health – have opened for recreational and medical sales. A third, Nature’s Medicine, has opened for medical sales and has received a provisional license for recreational cannabis sales.

Six other planned Fall River dispensaries are in some stage of the state Cannabis Control Commission’s license approval process. As of the CCC’s most recent license status list, a license application had yet to be submitted for the Hartwell Street dispensary.

Though few city residents attended Tuesday evening’s outreach meeting, someone who addressed the dispensary’s representatives spoke in favor of the business opening soon.

Resident Rick Paradise claimed the dispensary’s previous owners did a lot of community outreach work several years ago, noting the reception was positive.

“They asked people. They went to Walgreens, they went to the Applebee’s, I think they went across the street to McDonald’s. … A lot of them were very open and responsive and positive about it,” Paradise said. “After all the negativity (with other dispensaries), you’ll probably hear a lot more people willing to come out and critique and oppose, and I just want to say it wasn’t like that before.”

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