Cannabis investor asking Abington to lift retail cap

Scramble ongoing to include on special town meeting warrant

10/1 UPDATE: The Planning Board has scheduled a public hearing on the citizen’s petition sponsored by NashMac, LLC to increase the town’s cap on retail marijuana shops from two to five. The public hearing will take place on Friday, Oct. 16 at 5:30 p.m., at Abington Town Hall. Following the public hearing the Planning Board will likely make a recommendation on the article, which is part of the agenda for the Special Town Meeting scheduled for Monday, Oct. 19. Because it involves changing the town’s zoning bylaws, the petition will need support from 2/3 of those in attendance.

A Braintree-based cannabis company is looking to make Abington home to a collection of marijuana-related businesses that could generate hundreds of thousands of tax dollars for the town annually. But it first must navigate a course of state-required legal hurdles in order to get a needed vote at an upcoming special town meeting.

NashMac LLC, wants to operate a cannabis cultivation, manufacturing,  wholesale delivery service, and retail shop at 678 Adams St., that could employ up to 50 people. The site currently houses a mattress store and warehouse.

However, the town’s marijuana bylaw currently caps the number of available retail permits at two – both of which have already been issued.

NashMac founder and CEO Michael Nashawaty is hoping to ask residents at the Oct. 19 Special Town Meeting to increase the cap to five retail licenses. He would than apply for a permit for a retail shop and one for his wholesale delivery service.

“We really want to get into Abington,” he said.

But timing is tight, with the meeting now 20 days away and the warrant scheduled to go to the printer later this week. Already delayed due to siting issues as well as legal confusion at the town-level, Nashawaty is now sprinting to get his citizen’s petition on the agenda for the Special Town Meeting agenda – or else he’ll have to wait at least six months for Abington’s Annual Town Meeting.

“We would have liked to get this petition in earlier,” said Nashawaty, who is also an attorney.

Nashawaty successfully lobbied the Board of Selectmen at its meeting Monday night to reopen the Special Town Meeting warrant to include his petition, which was signed by more than 100 registered Abington voters. The board vote was 4-1, with Chairman Tim Chapin the lone vote against reopening the warrant.

However, because lifting the cap is classified as a change to the town’s zoning laws, the petition must first receive a public hearing led by the Planning Board. Public hearings must be advertised at least 14 days ahead of time according to state law, which means the earliest a public hearing could take place is Oct. 15.

“It’s going to be a tight timeline,” Acting Town Manager Scott Lambiase said Monday night.

Nashawaty said he’s pushing for an October vote on lifting the license cap because he currently holds a three- year exclusivity permit to operate a wholesale delivery business. Waiting until next spring would significantly cut into that timeframe.

The state Cannabis Control Commission has granted a number of so-called economic empowerment licenses via its social equity program. The programs favor those impacted by prior marijuana criminalization policies, as well as small, local business owners over larger, corporate-owned firms.

Nashawaty, who has a past conviction for marijuana possession, said the existing warehouse would become a 10,000 square foot grow house for marijuana. A manufacturing kitchen used to make edibles, oils, tinctures, and other licensed products would also be located in the building. The white two-story house at the front of the lot, currently Wayne’s Sleep Shop, would become the retail marijuana shop. Nashawaty said the delivery service, which would bring manufactured marijuana products to the homes of consumers, would keep its fleet of cars on the property also.

“We want to be a self-contained, full-scale cultivation, processing delivery operation,” Nashawaty told selectmen.

Nashawaty estimated fully building out the site would require a “seven figure investment” with the HVAC units required to service marijuana growing operations costing more than $1 million alone.

Because of the size of initial investment required, Nashawaty said he isn’t financially able to start with just the cultivation and manufacturing pieces; that he needs all four parts in place before he breaks ground.

The property at 678 Adams Street is currently assessed at $663,000, but that valuation would likely increase with the addition of new equipment and other improvements. Commercial property is also valued in part on its ability to generate revenue; a higher revenue producing property is worth more than a lower generating property.

In addition, the town would collect a 3 percent local sales tax and a 3 percent host impact fee from the retail shop, the delivery operation, and the sale of manufactured cannabis products to other retail shops. An operation that generates $5 million in combined sales would generate $300,000 in additional tax revenue for Abington.

Nashawaty estimates the retail shop could generate $5 million in sales alone, with the cultivation operation producing more than $16 million in product.

The late push to be included on the the Special Town Meeting warrant is the results of land issues and confusion at the town-level.

“We want to be a self-contained, full-scale cultivation, processing delivery operation,” Nashawaty told selectmen.

Nashawaty original appeared before the Planning Board last November to preliminary discuss the possibility of raising the town’s retail cap. At he time, the company was looking to build at the site of a long-defunct movie drive-in, which was located about a quarter-mile north on Adams Street. However, engineers determined there wasn’t enough buildable land to support the project. Finding a new parcel set the project back several months Nashawaty said.

Over the summer, Abington officials told Nashawaty that the town’s bylaws didn’t allow for manufacturing and cultivation. He was also told that state law prohibited the number of retail marijuana shops a town could permit at 20 percent the number of stores, which meant two pot shop permits. Both points were wrong however. Abington’s bylaw does allow for cultivation and manufacturing operations. In addition, the 20 percent rule is a state-set floor, not a cap, meaning the town could permit as many pot shops as it wants.

Nashawaty says he was also originally told he’d need the signatures of 10 registered voters to submit an article by petition. However, the town’s bylaws require 100 signatures for special town meetings. By the time he was able to collect the needed number of signatures, Nashawaty said, he missed the deadline to be included in the warrant. That’s why he ended up before the Board of Selectmen Monday night.

Abington has already permitted two retail marijuana operations. Bud’s Goods and Provisions, which will be located at 1540 Bedford St., is scheduled to open early next year. Green Harbor Dispensary, which is proposed for 1430 Bedford St., is still in the process of having its site plan reviewed by the Planning Board.

DISCLOSURE: The author of this article is a member of the Abington Planning Board.

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