Coronavirus pandemic poses challenges but companies continue the process

NEW BEDFORD — Though the city and state’s focus has been squarely on the coronavirus pandemic for the past several months, three recreational marijuana businesses with planned locations in the Whaling City have been able to move forward in the licensing process.

According to Cannabis Control Commission data from July 9, Tree Beard Inc has received four provisional licenses from the state to act as a marijuana retailer, cultivator, product manufacturer, and transporter and Metro Harvest Inc. has received a provisional license to act as a marijuana retailer in the city.

The July 9 data from CCC lists Southcoast Apothecary LLC as having submitted an application, but in a statement Monday the company said it has received its provisional license from the CCC and is now pursuing a special permit with the city of New Bedford.

All three companies will have to pursue special permits with the city and then go back to the state for their final licenses.

The companies passed the first hurdle in the licensing process last September when City Council approved host community agreements between the three companies and the city.

In its agreement with the city, Southcoast Apothecary’s proposed address is 115 Coggeshall Street near Market Basket.

“Southcoast Apothecary looks forward to opening its doors for business and making positive contributions to the community of beautiful South Coast Massachusetts,” the company’s statement read.

Metro Harvest’s president Steve LaBelle said it’s great to have the provisional license, though the pandemic slowed down the licensing process a little bit.

Despite being hindered by the pandemic LaBelle said the company is moving through the process and he expects to be open in the next four months.

Metro Harvest’s proposed location is 606 Tarkiln Hill Road not far from Fieldstone Marketplace.

Originally Tree Beard was proposing to open in the former Mitsubishi dealership on Nauset Street, but when asked if that was still the plan Nicolas Gomes, co-owner and legal officer for the company, would not say.

“We’re still seeking to bring cannabis to our home city of New Bedford despite the challenges we are facing in doing so,” Gomes said.

Those challenges have included regulatory restrictions, lack of access to funding, and scarce real estate options, according to Gomes, who called the challenge a large burden for any company, but especially those that are part of the Social Equity Program (SEP) or designated as Economic Empowerment Companies.

Gomes said Tree Beard is designated as both.

The SEP focuses on those most impacted by the War on Drugs, marijuana prohibition, and disproportionate arrest and incarceration, according to the CCC’s website, and offers selected applicants a free, statewide, technical assistance and training program.

Gomes said New Bedford was disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs for a city of its size and said “we have a duty essentially, in my opinion, to make it work in New Bedford, the people deserve it.”

New Bedford faced the largest marijuana arrest impact of any city or town in the state between 2006 -2010 and the second largest drug arrest impact during that time, according to a report prepared by Shenandoah University Criminal Justice Professor Jon Gettman in 2017 for the CCC.

Participation in and completion of the SEP program, however, does not guarantee licensure, according to the CCC.

Gomes said there have been tremendous financial limitations as a direct result of the pandemic, but that Tree Beard is still committed to “remain in New Bedford for cannabis, to provide that benefit to the people.”

Tree Beard plans to hire locally, further helping the local economy, according to Gomes, but getting to the point where they can do that has been made much more difficult with the pandemic.

Despite the difficulties, Gomes said Tree Beard has been moving forward with getting plans drawn, getting traffic analyses performed, and doing its homework by going over zoning that the city and the state have.

Gomes said there’s not an exact date for the company’s opening right now, but that with the steps to get final licensing he expects it to be a six-month to a year long project.

Beacon Compassion Inc. also received a host community agreement from the city for the sale of medical and recreational marijuana at 366 Hathaway Road, but the CCC does not has a New Bedford location listed as having a provisional license or even submitting an application. The CCC data does list Beacon Compassion as having provisional licenses to manufacture and cultivate marijuana at an Attleboro location. The company did not respond to a request for comment.


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