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Lynn’s first medical marijuana shop opens

A detail photo of a sample of the marijuana strain, Mimosa, at Apothca in Lynn. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — The city’s first marijuana shop has opened for business.

Apothca Inc., formerly known as the Massachusetts Patient Foundation, located at 491 Lynnway, opened the medical marijuana dispensary on Friday.

For now, only customers with a medical marijuana card will have access to the dispensary. All others will be turned away.

The Newton-based company also operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Arlington and plans to open a third location in Jamaica Plain next year. Their cultivation and processing site is in Fitchburg at the former Bayer Pharmaceutical campus.

Apothca received approval from the city to also operate a recreational pot shop at the site, which its co-founder Joseph Lekach hopes will open early next year, pending state approval.

“To be the first one (in Lynn) is extremely exciting,” said Lekach. “There’s a lot riding on us. A lot of public perception with how cannabis is going to work in the city is depending on us.”

The company’s management cites having a great partnership with the city, but is concerned with how potential future dispensaries being clustered nearby could hurt business.

City officials are now vetting numerous applicants interested in opening up recreational pot shops.

“I’m a little disappointed in the close proximity of the dispensaries that are going to be opening in the downtown right now,” said Jordan Avery, director of security and HR for Apothca. “I think we should be more strategic as a city with where we’re placing them and wanting to set businesses up for success. It’s going to hurt businesses.”

Old World Remedies, a Marblehead company, which was approved to open a medical dispensary on Western Avenue, plans to seek a recreational license. Four more companies have been given the green light from the city’s Recreational Cannabis Site Plan Review Committee and could move on to seek their special permit from the City Council to operate.

All of the shops that have advanced through the committee’s vetting process, if approved, would be located in the downtown, and one would be in nearby Ward 6, where Apothca is located. Shops can open anywhere in the city, but can’t be near schools and must be at least 500 feet from another retail location. There are six of eight total recreational licenses available in the city.

Lekach said there are lots of reasons people would want to come to their dispensary versus elsewhere, citing parking availability, nice shopability and unique genetics and strands from their product.

“I think that a lot of people are just coming in,” said Lekach. “I think it’s been going a little too fast. In terms of overall competition, we’re not worried.”

But City Council President Darren Cyr said he only expects the Council to approve one of the three companies that have been vetted by the Recreational Cannabis Site Plan Review Committee, with proposed locations within a block of one another. He said the Council will pick the company it thinks the city will benefit from the most.

“We’re not going to allow dispensaries to open in a cluster-type setting,” said Cyr. “It doesn’t make sense to allow two or three to open within a one-block or two-block area. You’re talking about a city that’s 15 square miles.”

Cyr said despite Lynn voters overwhelming approving recreational pot use, a lot of people are still opposed to opening up dispensaries in their neighborhoods.

“People are afraid of the unknown,” he said. “I didn’t vote for it. I was opposed to it, but I see what the benefits are for the city. It’s here and the voters overwhelmingly approved it. Lynn has to do everything it can to bring it into the city and allowing several recreational dispensaries to open would be a good windfall for the city for taxes.”

Under the company’s host agreement with the city, Apothca was required to pay the city $100,000 upon its execution, an advance against future medical sales revenue. Apothca will be required to provide the city with 6 percent of annual gross revenues, when factoring in the local option tax Lynn officials passed last year.

At the facility, there will always be 35 percent of the inventory designed for medical patients only, which guarantees that they never run out of supplies for them. Marijuana will be the same price for both recreational use and medical customers, but only recreational customers are taxed.

Per Massachusetts law, patients are limited to up to 10 ounces of marijuana per 60 days with a prescription and may only be able to purchase more if their doctor deems it necessary. How much marijuana a patient has purchased is regulated through a state system.

In Massachusetts, only people with certain debilitating medical conditions qualify for a medical marijuana card, including those with cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis.

In 2012, Massachusetts voters approved making marijuana legal for medical use and in 2016, pot for recreational use was approved at the polls.

The first Massachusetts recreational pot shops are slated to open on Tuesday after being given the green light by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission.

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