Published in the September 29, 2017 edition

MELROSE — The city plans to court those interested in starting a medical marijuana business here.

Mayor Robert J. Dolan said last week he is creating an advisory committee to assist him in evaluating potential operators of a registered medical marijuana dispensary in the designated area on Route 99. He said he has met with representatives from about 10 firms that own medical marijuana dispensaries, most of which were the area.

“It is truly medical-based,” said Dolan, who explained he has looked at length into the medical marijuana industry. “It is not a front for people who will abuse the law. There is little or not advertising of these facilities and the security is ridiculously tight.”

The Mayor’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee will consist of representatives of the Mayor’s Office, the Office of Planning and Community Development, the Police Department, the Health Department, and the Legal Department.

The members of the committee are Director of Community Services Mike Lindstrom; the City legal team of Robert Van Campen and David Lucas; City Planner Denise Gaffey; Police Chief Mike Lyle; and Regional Tobacco Coordinator Maureen Buzby.

The Board of Aldermen recently amended the Melrose Zoning Ordinance to allow this type of use by special permit in the business and industrial district that runs along Route 99. Regardless of who ultimately is able to receive a license from the state, that entity would have to go through a local permitting process in order to receive the special permit.

The city has received a number of proposals for medical marijuana dispensaries. The advisory committee will screen the candidates in order to ensure that they are qualified, responsible, and experienced, before any other permitting or licensure process begins.

Among the properties on Route 99 drawing interest are the old Smyly Buick site and the facility once home to Sabatino’s restaurant.

Communities are not allowed to receive any more than 3 percent of a medical marijuana dispensary’s total sales as a tax, which would generate between $300,000 and $500,000 a year in Melrose.

“This is a revenue source with a minimal impact on the community,” the mayor explained. “We need to deal with a structural deficit in our schools, which is getting worse because we are not getting any increase in” money from the state. “This will benefit the police and the Health Department too,” Dolan continued.

“People understand that the real quality of product is in medical marijuana, and we anticipate the clientele to be between 50 and 70 years of age. This is all based on science and is heavily controlled. Now is the time for us to do this. If we don’t, then Saugus or Malden or Everett will,” he continued.

“Medical marijuana is legal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and cities and towns must be prepared for it through zoning and regulation,” said Mayor Rob Dolan. “The advisory committee will ensure that anyone operating in the City of Melrose has impeccable credentials and is highly qualified and experienced in the industry. Restricting this use to Route 99 avoids impacts on residential neighborhoods. This is an appropriate commercial zone, and I should further note that any dispensary would have to operate under the strict regulations of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.”

In order to receive a license from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, a potential operator must receive a letter of non-opposition from the community in which it would be situated.