ASHBURNHAM — A potential marijuana grow and manufacturing facility was recently presented for a required public outreach that could bring both cannabis and additional revenue to town.
The site being considered is located on Winchendon Road (Route 12) in the area of Corey Hill Road. New England Agricultural Technologies LLC owns a seven-acre lot marketed as Grow Space New England. They will be financing the developmental costs plus oversee engineering and construction.
The facility would have a 100-foot buffer zone as required, so trees and vegetation currently present abutting the road would remain. There would be no visible signage.
They will be seeking two different licenses from the state Cannabis Control Commission: a tier 2 cultivation license and a product manufacturing license. There will be no retail, direct consumer sales or consumption on-site.
The venture is being led by Sugar Grove LLC CEO Sam Bacon, his partner Hunter Sherman, and Robert Wolf, who represents Grow Space New England.
Bacon and Sherman met at Tabor Academy, a private prep school in Marion. They both went separate ways after getting out of school but maintained a friendship.
Bacon has a degree in chemical engineering and spent three years as a medical device engineer in Colorado where he said he developed a life-saving blood device.
After marketing the device successfully, Bacon returned to Northeastern to work on his master’s degree.
Last winter, Bacon approached Sherman, who was growing cannabis in Maine, with a business plan to start cultivation in Massachusetts. He called Sherman a very skilled grower specializing in high-end cannabis. Bacon said the growing process for Sherman’s cannabis requires a lot more labor than most operations.
“There is potential for people to become part of our company,” Bacon said. “We are just excited about the opportunity to grow in Ashburnham and give back to a Massachusetts community, especially (central) Massachusetts.”
Sherman had been pursuing an economic degree in Florida when, in his junior year, he joined a medical and recreational grow facility in Denver, Colorado. He ended up moving to Denver and began his cultivation career there.
He moved home with his father, an owner of a commercial fishing business in New Bedford, and spent time fishing, then headed up to Maine and began experimenting on cannabis to find a genetically superior plant to manufacture concentrates.
Bacon explained that Sherman uses a water extraction process to create live rosin, which is the company’s niche product. He added that they are working on the plan to make growing and manufacture a reality.
Wolf said the site for Sugar Grove was chosen from visiting more than 1,000 sites in Massachusetts and was perfect for agriculture.
Wolf came before selectmen in February to explain what his company provides.
“What we do is we buy the land and build high-tech greenhouses,” Wolf said. “They are about a million dollars each and we lease them out to cultivators, so we handle all the development, all the financing, all the regulatory issues, all the legal issues, and we manage the sites so they are at a level that most cultivation facilities cannot achieve,” he added. “We are basically raising capital on a real estate investment program.”
The Winchendon Road greenhouse site would maximize energy efficiency using solar whenever it can, plus reverse osmosis water recapture and a gasifier heating system.
The buildings would be constructed of polycarbonate and metal and built on slabs. There will be no vents to the outside so there would be no smell or odor from the operation.
The lot is zoned Residential B. The building plan includes acquisition of an abutting lot that would increase the space to more than 30 acres.
Leo Falgout from Safire Risk Advisory Group explained the plan for security, which includes limited access areas, video surveillance, badges, key cards, commercial locks, a monitored alarm system, safes for finished products, emergency response procedures and training, and secure waste disposal.
There would be no increase in traffic because there would be no on-site sales. There would be no drain on town water because they will use well water.
The state requires the proposed business deliver a plan designed to positively impact those disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition.
Sugar Grove proposes to fund an annual record-sealing workshop in Ashburnham to be run by a Massachusetts attorney. Participants would be assisted through the process with the courts and probation department.
Sugar Grove would seek to hire people with past cannabis convictions who are otherwise eligible.
Bacon said in the first year of operation they are looking to have 20-25 employees on-site. He said the labor would go toward processing, which is all done by hand.
“Then we would be looking at a labor pool of probably 30, 35 to 40 people total,” he said.
Revenue to the town is anticipated to be $150,000 annually to cover expenses.
The CCC requires a community outreach meeting and a host community agreement. Town Administrator Brian Doheny and the marijuana review team will be working with Sugar Grove to assure all local requirements are met.