State Headliners: Small Massachusetts town wants to stop 1 million square feet marijuana grow

By Guy Page

Here’s something Vermont towns may face if Vermont legalizes “tax and regulate” commercial marijuana: a 1 million square-foot marijuana cultivation and retail complex.

Massachusetts began issuing marijuana dispensary licenses in July. The town of Charlton (population 13,438) is in turmoil over a proposed 1 million square-foot  greenhouse, retail and research complex, with its own 18 megawatt fossil-fuel powered electricity plant, according to the Sept. 5 Worcester Telegram. To put 1 million square feet in perspective, the 135,000 square feet Costco warehouse in Colchester is less than one-seventh its size.

Industrial-scale marijuana grow

Valley Green Grow of Andover, Massachusetts, minimizes the impact on the rural town near the Rhode Island border. “All the outlining woods will still be here,” a company spokesperson said in May. “Unless you’re looking on Google Earth, you won’t even know it’s up here.”

But it’s not the view — mostly — that people in town are worried about. Valley Green Grow came in with a promised package of fees and taxes suited to appeal to town selectmen. Townspeople say other issues — like quality of life, odor, traffic, and being known as the town that manufacturers a destructive, addictive drug — were never given serious, public consideration. Then there’s the 18 megawatt natural gas power plant.

Growing almost a million square feet of marijuana requires vast amounts of electricity to operate the grow lights, heaters, air conditioners and other equipment that maximizes plant growth. Massachusetts state energy officials concede that legal commercial cultivation of marijuana will place a huge strain the state’s electricity demand. Bay State officials are eager to import more power from Canada to meet rising demand and the generation that will be lost when Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, the state’s largest generator, closes next July.

At Charlton Planning Commission hearings, the company lawyers say potential problems — light pollution, odor, stormwater runoff, traffic — have been accounted for. Frustrated by their town fathers’ acceptance of the project due to the windfall in taxes and fees, townspeople in August called for a townwide prohibition on all non-medical marijuana-related enterprises. The vote will take next May.

The CEO of Valley Green Grow is Jeffrey Goldstein. Goldstein also wants to build a smaller marijuana grow facility and dispensary in North Adams, Massachusetts, just a few miles from the Vermont state line, according to IBerkshires.com.

Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Aleks

One thought on “State Headliners: Small Massachusetts town wants to stop 1 million square feet marijuana grow

  1. “a destructive, addictive drug”? Really? You mean like Heroin? Ritalin? Adderall? Alcohol? Benzos? IF marijuana is addicting I think far less than these. Addicting like maybe chocolate or coffee. No one has ever died from an overdose of Marijuana. I knew lots of marijuana smokers who were not addicted and could take it or leave it. I think the most dangerous thing about smoking marijuana is the smoking. Oh yeah what about tobacco? These days those I know who take it take it as a tincture, or a spray or in food. I have done a lot of research on it as I have a grandson who tried it for his seizures. It cures many conditions like cancer. I am all for it being legal. Now I realize all the propaganda I heard when I was a teen was not true. I am 70 and have never tried it and I have no intention to try it for recreation but I want the option if I get an illness that it would help.

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