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Merrimack planners approve medical marijuana dispensary

Union Leader Correspondent

January 05. 2016 11:18PM
A medical marijuana dispensary has been approved by the Merrimack Planning Board at 105 Daniel Webster Highway. (Kimberly Houghton)

MERRIMACK — Despite concerns from neighboring businesses and a nearby Catholic college, the local planning board on Tuesday granted permission for a medical marijuana dispensary to operate in town.

Prime Alternative Treatment Center of New Hampshire will convert the former Digital Credit Union building at 105 Daniel Webster Highway into a medical cannabis dispensary — one of four being permitted by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services since the state legislature legalized the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes in June of 2013.

“This is a therapy just like any other medication,” Brett Sicklick, CEO of Prime Alternative Treatment Center of New Hampshire, told the planning board on Tuesday. “There will be no consumption of product on site.”

If the charitable non-profit organization receives all of its permits, the dispensary will include security cameras, secure interior vaults and a clean, professional environment similar to a medical facility, according to company officials.

Sicklick anticipates about 25 to 50 patients per day, and about 10 full-time employees at the site.

Prior to voting to approve the proposed site plan, local planners heard concerns from two local business owners — including the owners of S&J Motor Company and an attorney for the owner of RH Cars Auto Center.

A letter from Thomas Fahey, president of the nearby Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, was also read aloud at the meeting.

Fahey expressed grave concern and opposition to the facility, saying the college may consider legal action and potential peaceful protests if the alternative treatment center becomes operational.

He maintained that the dispensary, if approved, will be harmful to the organization’s corporate image, compromise future events at the college and create an insecure environment for school children.

Although dispensaries are not permitted within 1,000 feet of any school zone, the college is exempt from school zones and is closer to the site than 1,000 feet, according to Robert Best, chairman of the planning board.

While Best said he respects concerns from Fahey, he stressed that marijuana will not be used on the site, and the product is not intended for recreational use.

“We want to be good neighbors. We want to be good partners in the community,” said John Begin, chief security officer for Prime ATC.

About 75 percent of the products being offered to qualified patients and registered caregivers at the alternative treatment center will be non-psychoactive. Sicklick explained that most patients are elderly individuals with debilitating conditions such as cancer.

Dr. Gilbert Fanciullo, a member of the Pain Management Team at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, said previously that various forms of the drug will be offered, including creams, cannabinoid oils, cannabis flowers, capsules and more to help provide therapeutic benefits.

The dispensary facility will be regulated with fairly stringent guidelines and requirements, Mary Castelli of the Office of Operations Support for NHDHHS said earlier.

There are 12 serious medical conditions that the state legislature has identified as qualifying conditions for patients seeking to register with the therapeutic cannabis program, and the alternative treatment center will work closely with the local police chief.

In August, the Merrimack Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend that the town council approve new zoning regulations with stricter guidelines for medical marijuana dispensaries.

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