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Cannabis Commission Posts List Of Applicants For Marijuana Businesses

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The state's Cannabis Control Commission has released the names of 11 companies that have applied to run marijuana businesses in nine communities in western Massachusetts. If licensed, the companies promise to bring tax revenue, jobs and other economic benefits to the cities and towns that host them.

The list includes businesses that want to grow marijuana in places like Holyoke, Easthampton and Orange, and sell it in Northampton, Pittsfield, Greenfield and Williamstown.

The town of Montague signed an agreement with a company called 253 Organic to grow, manufacture and sell the drug.

Town Administrator Steve Ellis said Montague has set standards for things like odor, noise and what's depicted on signs.

“No symbol representing marijuana directly or in an overt way,” would be allowed, explained Ellis. “So that the public is not constantly bombarded or presented with images of marijuana.”

In other words, Montague wants cannabis companies to keep a low profile, but also contribute to town coffers. The town has put a 3 percent tax on marijuana sales, the highest rate allowed by state law.

“It could produce in the vicinity of $200,000 a year,” said Ellis, “ if their initial projections of sales are correct.”

Ellis said that's based on the company's estimate of $7 million a year in sales.

The company has also agreed to a 3 percent "community impact payment" to fund things like substance abuse education, plus another 1 to 3 percent payment on wholesale revenues. And, once 253 Organic's  building is renovated, it could mean a higher property tax bill.

In addition, the company also agreed to donate $15,000 a year to community initiatives and provide 150 hours a year in community service, according to Walter Ramsey, Montague's town planner.

Not bad for a town with a $20 million budget.

Seth Rutherford, who now runs an irrigation company, is one of four partners at 253 Organic. The other partners are a lawyer, a contractor and a Broadway producer.

Rutherford said the company found a great 33,000 square foot building in Montague, where 63.2 percent of voters supported the 2016 ballot question to legalize pot.

“We do like our demographics up there. That was one of the reasons we chose Montague," Rutherford said. "We feel that it’s going to be a good market there for the store.”

Rutherford's company doesn't know when the Cannabis Control Commission will decide on its license applications. So far the commission has only licensed two businesses -- neither in western Massachusetts.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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