Grow, Gift, Repair

Community members speak out at Holyoke hearing.

Caputo was one of the 150 or so people who attended the hearing on draft regulations released in December. State Reps. Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke, and John Velis, D-Westfield, were in attendance.

Monday’s hearing was the second on a series of 10 public hearings planned by the Cannabis Control Commission.

Steven J. Hoffman, commission chairman, said his panel is on track to get the stores open by the July 1 target date.

“That date is not written into statute. And it isn’t going to come down to doing this right or doing it quickly. We are going to do this right,” Hoffman said. “But we are on a pace to meet that target.”

Hoffman chaired the hearing with Commissioner Kay Doyle.

Caputo said he’s invested $600,000 and is looking for $400,000 in additional funding for his growing operation at 5-13 Appleton St. in Holyoke. He plans to grow there and distribute product to other shops.

“I know that Holyoke could use my 25 employees each making $25 an hour,” he said.

Entrepreneurs have looked to Holyoke — with its ample cheap hydropower for grow lights and water pumps and available industrial space in old mill buildings — as a good spot to set up commercial cannabis operations. Mayor Alex Morse has also been receptive to the industry.

Michael Kroboch, of Acton, said Massachusetts’ regulations on the whole are friendly for the mom-and-pop craft-style marijuana business he wants to create.

“We have seen in other states where the rules were written for the big corporations,” he said. “Massachusetts will allow for the small grower.”

Some speakers expressed concerns. Tina Lukasik, family outreach coordinator for the South Hadley Drug & Alcohol Prevention Coalition, worries about teens getting access to marijuana. The minimum age in Massachusetts for recreational marijuana is age 21.

But medical marijuana is available to those age 18 and up. What happens, she asked, when a medical dispensary and a recreational retail store are located in the same spot?

Constance Kruger, a member of the Amherst Select Board, said the college town she represents is likely to be impacted, and where and under what conditions to allow marijuana shops is a matter of some debate.

Vega testified that marijuana operations should have local ties and local partners before they can open. The communities should get some business benefit over and above taxes.