Elm Street site eyed for medical marijuana dispensary

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BENNINGTON — The group that last week received conditional approval for the state's fifth medical marijuana license has a Bennington dispensary site in mind and hopes to open the facility within a few months.

William Cats-Baril, CEO of PhytoScience Institute, LLC, said the group has an agreement for the building at 345 Elm St., which formerly housed a medical practice but now is vacant and for sale.

He said PhytoScience Institute will initiate the local permitting process soon, hoping to hire and train staff members and open within four to five months.

The group also has conditional approval to open a dispensary in St. Albans, but no site there has been selected.

"Bennington is our priority," Cats-Baril said.

In addition to operating two dispensary operations in the state, PhytoScience Institute is looking for a site somewhere between Bennington and St. Albans, Cats-Baril said, to establish a marijuana cultivation facility. In the short-term, he has agreements with two existing license holders to purchase medical marijuana for patients here and in the St. Albans area.

Cats-Baril said the Elm Street site is "a beautiful property" and well-suited for the purpose.

It is located near Lyle Drive and the entrance of the Chester Knoll housing development.

Asked about zoning requirements in that area, town Planning Director Dan Monks said in an email, "In general, commercial uses are not allowed on upper Elm Street. 345 Elm Street may continue to be used as a medical office as it is a pre-existing, non-conforming use. However, a dispensary involves the sale of a product without any medical examinations on site. The [Development Review Board] will have to decide if a dispensary can fairly be considered a medical clinic as defined in the town's Land Use Regulations."

Cats-Baril said his group plans a patient-focused business, adding that typically a few registered patients at a time would be served, always after making an appointment. The facility will not be a retail store, he said.

Currently, he oversees a laboratory in Waterbury that researches and develops high-quality medical marijuana and performs quality testing, using proprietary methods for the Vermont Patients Alliance and other entities.

Bennington is considered one of those areas currently underserved through the medical marijuana program, which now allows facilities in Montpelier, Brattleboro, Brandon and Burlington.

The legislation that this year allowed a fifth cultivation/dispensary license also permits each of the original license-holders to establish a satellite facility in another area, and applications have been submitted for satellite dispensaries in Middlebury, South Burlington, Williston and Hartford.

Five license applications for the new license were first reviewed by a panel including Vermont Marijuana Registry staff members, a state-registered patient and a caregiver. The committee then made recommendations to state Department of Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Anderson, who made the final decision.

PhytoScience Institute received conditional license approval, and now must secure ownership or use of the proposed site and seek local permits. Once the facility is ready to begin operations, a final state inspection is required before the license is issued.

Another group that planned a facility in Bennington, Vermont Green Grow, was one of two license-seekers whose applications were rejected by the state after a determination the application was incomplete. Principals in the group are contesting that assessment.

When the number of Vermont medical marijuana patients reaches 7,000, the state will begin seeking applications for a sixth full license, as allowed under the state legislation. As of Aug. 24, there were 4,609 patients enrolled with the Marijuana Registry.

Information about PhytoScience Institute is available at www.phytoscienceinstitute.com

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. @BB_therrien on Twitter.


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