Published in the January 12, 2017 edition

By Bill Laforme

NORTH READING – A proposed medical marijuana dispensary in town has selectmen seeking further information before potentially signing off on the idea. Representatives from the Cardiac Arrythmia Syndromes Foundation made their case for establishing a dispensary at 61 Concord Street, while also emphasizing a potentially lucrative new revenue source for the town.

The medical marijuana application has a unique story behind it. CAS Foundation founder Jayne Vining explained to selectmen that she had started her nonprofit in 2008 in memory of her son, who had died from sudden cardiac arrest. A tough economy eventually led sponsorship dollars to diminish, she added. With that in mind, the organization would use proceeds from the medical marijuana facility to fund its heart screening programs, which Vining estimated have saved about 100 lives. As a recognized nonprofit, it also apparently can run up to three such dispensaries in Massachusetts. Vining reported that along with the proposed facility in North Reading, the CAS Foundation is also finishing work on a large marijuana grow facility in Fitchburg – described as more than 80% complete – as well as dispensaries in Cambridge and Somerville.

Security at the North Reading facility would reportedly include police details for at least its first month, as well as plain clothes private security, cameras and cameras. The grow facility in Fitchburg would also feature a formidable security setup, selectmen were told.

Vining said she had been skeptical of the medical marijuana idea when it was first suggested to her, since she had also lost a child to an opioid overdose. “I went, ‘oh you’ve got to be kidding me,” she told selectmen. However, Vining added that she considered it and found that medical marijuana has been useful in reducing the death rate from opiod abuse. She added that the typical age range for a medical marijuana patient is 47 to 65, with a variety of conditions treated and about 40,000 total patients in the state.

Bert Vining, the Chief Operating Officer of the CAS Foundation, told selectmen that the organization would offer its host towns 4% of its first $3 million in revenues, and 3% thereafter. With projected revenues of up to $15 million, Vining noted that it would “a very significant contribution” for the town coffers. Jayne Vining also said the organization reserves seats on its board for residents of a host town, including what was described as stipends of up to $50,000 that could be used toward local projects. “We’ve been vetted at the highest levels,” Bert Vining told the selectmen, later promising that “you can watch every step of the process.”

Seeking to sweeten the proverbial pot, the CAS representatives also offered to apply for the recreational marijuana license that is expected to eventually be available in North Reading – and then never use it, which would allow the town to sidestep the prospect of somebody else eventually opening one. The Vinings also pledged to give priority to job applicants and vendors from North Reading.

The Vinings also emphasized the facility in North Reading would be retail only – with individual deliveries apparently to be made to patients by appointment from the growing facility.