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Route 7 location in Middlebury could host a medical marijuana dispensary

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Development Review Board on Nov. 27 will take its first look at a proposal to establish a medical marijuana dispensary at 1641 Route 7 South, the former home of Planned Parenthood.
As previously reported by the Independent, Champlain Valley Dispensary (CVD) has been looking for a Middlebury location from which to serve Addison County patients with state identification cards to receive medical marijuana. The CVD currently supplies around 3,000 qualifying patients with medical marijuana through its dispensaries in Burlington and Brattleboro.
Act 65, signed into law this past spring, paved the way for CVD to open another dispensary in Middlebury.
As of Aug. 24, there were 4,438 patients enrolled with the Vermont Marijuana Registry, including 233 in Addison County, according to the Department of Public Safety.
Shayne Lynn, executive director of CVD, said he and his staff researched several potential spots in Middlebury for a medical marijuana dispensary. Lynn noted the building at 1641 Route 7 South, controlled by Stepping Stone Investments LLC, would work well because it would be easy for patients to find, has ample parking, and meets a key criterion prescribed in state law: It is more than 1,000 feet away from a nursery, child care facility or school.
“It looks like a good fit,” Lynn said of the spot, adding Darcy Stone of Stepping Stone Investments has been “great to work with.”
Middlebury’s zoning regulations, currently being updated, don’t reference the option of a “medical marijuana dispensary.” That means CVD will have to pitch the dispensary as a “retail” establishment that could then be approved as a conditional use in the town’s Protected Highway District of Route 7 South.
But if the DRB does not agree the dispensary can be considered a retail operation, the application would become a non-starter — at least in the Protected Highway District, according to Middlebury Town Planner Jennifer Murray.
The DRB’s Nov. 27 review of the Middlebury dispensary will start at 7 p.m. in the large conference room in the Middlebury town offices at 77 Main St.
While the Middlebury dispensary would only provide medical marijuana to registered patients pre-qualified based on a specific debilitating illness (like Multiple Sclerosis, AIDS, HIV and glaucoma), the location would carry separate wares that Lynn believes would qualify it as a “retail location.”
He explained CVD has a sister business called Ceres Natural Remedies, which offers an array of Cannibidol products that have also proven effective in relieving pain symptoms. While derived from hemp and cannabis, Cannibidol products don’t possess enough tetrahydrocannabinol — the property in marijuana that causes the “high” — to be considered a regulated drug. So it can be obtained over the counter in capsule and trans-dermal patch, according to Lynn.
Ceres carries around 15 Cannibidol products that have become popular among folks who want relief from the symptoms of neuropathy, epilepsy, sleep disorders and other ailments — without the intoxicating effects of marijuana, according to Lynn.
He added Vermont farmers are becoming key players in the Cannibidol market, as the state now issues licenses for growing hemp. There are currently 85 farmers licensed growing hemp in Vermont, including several in Addison County.
“The Cannibidol market could become bigger than the cannabis market,” Lynn said.
Now CVD officials will have to convince Middlebury that Ceres-related sales will allow the dispensary to meet the definition of a retail establishment.
Lynn, in the CVD application for the Middlebury dispensary, offered some of the following specifics about how the Route 7 South business would function:
•  All qualifying patients would have to bring in a lock box into which the purchased cannabis must be placed before it can leave the store.
•  The location would be equipped with video surveillance system and a panic button connected with the Middlebury Police Department.
•  Product and cash would be kept in safes, with bank deposits made daily.
•  Two full-time and two part-time people would staff the dispensary. Those workers would have to pass an FBI fingerprint background check annually.
•  The dispensary would begin with “minimal hours,” with the goal of being open six days per week, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
•  Per state law, no loitering or use of marijuana would be permitted in premises or in public.
“If patients break this law we are obligated to call police and/or remove them from our dispensary registry list,” the CVD application states.
•  “Subtle” on-site signage would inform patients of the dispensary location.
Lynn on Tuesday said he had yet to reach out to adjacent property owners of 1641 Route 7 South, but added he looks forward to doing so. Plans call for CVD to rent the space rather than buy it. The previous tenant, Planned Parenthood (aka the Middlebury Health Center), is now based at 1330 Exchange St.
“There will be a lot of questions and we will be happy to answer them,” Lynn said.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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